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

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Start your week with a dose of Russian Revolutionary zeal. Donald Rayfield reviews Tobie Mathew's 'Greetings From t… ,
    • A treat from the LR Archive: exactly 20 years ago, Malcolm Bradbury reviewed John Updike's 'Bech at Bay' ,
    • ‘When bullets come close, the noise they make as they go past changes from a zing to a crack’ John Lanchester's dy… ,
    • Man with a Bloody Paintbrush: Robin Simon on Lucian Freud ,
    • Jane Ridley reviews The Diaries of Kenneth Rose (ed. D R Thorpe) ,
    • ‘Look,’ says Trump. ‘The fact is I’m only human.’ On the evidence of this book that point is debatable. From the A… ,
    • From our December/January issue - here's John Banville's review of Colm Tóibín on the fathers of Wilde, Yeats and J… ,