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I just read that Salman Rushdie and Antonia Byatt hated the ‘pastoral’ theme of Adam Thorpe’s masterpiece so much, they refused to allow his name to be included in 1993’s list of promising young authors. That makes me love it even more. No other modern novel sings so sadly and beautifully about the land in which we live. The story of an English village through the ages, told through the voices of villagers, it avoids any sentimentality about rural life, whilst refusing to obscure or deny the ‘muscle memory’ that ties us with such longing to the land. It should be core reading for Blue Labour, along with (I think) the poetry of Geoffrey Hill (of which more soon).