Diana Athill

Rustic Fantastic

Dreams of the Good Life: The Life of Flora Thompson and the Creation of Lark Rise to Candleford


Allen Lane/The Penguin Press 240pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

If someone writes few letters, has few friends and likes nothing better than being alone, death can wipe away the story of a life with alarming completeness. This can be true even if they happen to have written a wonderful book. No archive, no anecdotes, no one with personal memories – it would be rash to attempt a biography of such a person. I suspect that Richard Mabey may have felt this before he reached the end of his biography of Flora Thompson, born Flora Timms, author of Lark Rise to Candleford, a woman as reserved and private as it is possible to be this side of sanity.

Initially published in three separate volumes and then released together, shortly afterwards in 1945, as a trilogy, Lark Rise to Candleford is generally taken to be Thompson’s account of her own childhood in a tiny Oxfordshire village before the First World War. She called it a novel, as we learn from this book. She submitted the script of Lark Rise, the first volume, to Oxford University Press, a surprising choice of publisher

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