A lyrical, evocative and wonderfully original wartime memoir about life on a farm in the Cotswolds, seen through the eyes of a child.
Bertie, May and Mrs Fish is Xandra Bingley's account of her childhood on a Cotswold farm, set against the backdrop of the Second World War and its aftermath. Bingley's mother is left to farm the land whilst her husband is away at war, isolated in the landscape. With its eccentric cast of characters, this book captures both the essence of a country childhood and the remarkable courage and resilience displayed by ordinary people during the war. The beauty and sensitivity of Bingley's observation is artfully balanced by the harshness and grit of her reality.
'In the cowshed my mother ties her hair in a topknot scarf that lies on the feedbin lid. At five thirty each morning and four o'clock in the afternoons she chases rats off the mangers. She measures cowcake and rolled oats and opens the bottom cowshed door. Thirty-one brown and white Ayrshires and one brindle Jersey tramp into their stalls…
Two thousand acres. A mile of valley. Horses cattle sheep pigs poultry. Snow above the lintels of the downstairs windows. Her fingers swelling. Chilblains. Her long white kid gloves wrapped around a leaky pipe in her bedroom. Knotted at the fingers. She has a lot to learn and no one to teach her. Accidents happen.'
Bingley tells her tale in a startling voice which captures the universe of a child, the unforgiving landscape and the complicated adult world surrounding her: Her acute observation, and her emotional, sensual descriptive gift for place, people, sound, and touch make this a brilliantly authentic and evocative portrait.
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'Bertie, May and Mrs Fish is an instant English classic – a book about class, courage, innocence, survival, and the losts and founds of wartime Britain, written with such wit, generosity and panache that it's a galloping runaway pleasure to read.' Ali Smith
'I sat down on the edge of my bed when I brought Xandra Bingley’s book upstairs. It is now 10.15 pm. I haven't moved, I haven't taken off my coat, I haven't had supper. I think it is absolutely wonderful. I'm spellbound.' Diana Athill
‘Utterly enchanting, and quite unputdownable.' Jilly Cooper
'Your book is a great masterpiece, incredibly vivid, everything springing to life…Subtle and obvious as well…the whole thing is brilliant.' Mark Amory (Spectator Literary Editor)
'I haven't been able to put it down. I think it is absolutely magical, a wonderful bittersweet stream of consciousness, and a terrific ability to capture the wonder of childhood. It is extraordinary how the book has achieved the voice of a child. The authenticity shines through. I think you're onto a winner here.' – Simon Jenkins
'It's terrific. Like Diana Athill I didn't put it down until I'd finished it. I recognized my own childhood on a farm, like I recognized Lorna's village school life in Bad Blood; and that kind of recognition is a (rare) absolute pointer to something being seriously good. The atmosphere at the beginning is so evocative and mysteriously inviting.' – Holly Eley (TLS editor)
'It is utterly wonderful. I think it is nothing less than a masterpiece. Reading it is like watching a wonderful painter gently filling a canvas. The way the story is quietly and deftly put together is entrancing, exciting, funny, evocative, upsetting and also wistfully sad. I adored the way the author brought out youthful hope and wonder, and the inevitable ending of it.' – Brough Scott (TV, ST, Racing Post)About the Author:
XANDRA BINGLEY ran away from her farm and horses aged seventeen. She went to London to MI5 to save England from communist invasion and then travelled to America with an English poet. In Ireland she started renovations on a lovely house in Co. Kildare. In England again she failed as a law student and joined Ian Hamilton's literary magazine The New Review, moving on to Jonathan. She ran her own Literary Agency for fifteen years. A ride across the farm led to her first published book.
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Book Description HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 2005. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110007149506
Book Description HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 2005. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 7149506