PUBLISHERS OF LITERARY FICTION SINCE 1983
A bitter-sweet tale which evokes both the splendour and the harshness of life in rural England at the beginning of the 19th century and deals with the events which would lead to tragedy for the peasant poet. It is novel which will have a universal appeal because of its strong and deeply moving story. For many readers The Ballad of John Clare will bring to mind the major novels of Thomas Hardy.
What marks The Ballad of John Clare from other books about John Clare is that it deals with John Clare’s early life, in fact when he is seventeen. The teenaged Clare is in tune with nature and the rural environment around his home in Helpston in the East of England. In the momentous twelve months covered by the novel we see him courting his childhood sweetheart, having his first sexual encounter with an older woman, labouring in the fields, playing his fiddle and singing at local entertainments, but above all we see him at one with the natural world. This is no rural idyll, however, as the enclosures are about to begin, taking the land held in common by communities and parcelling it out to the local landowners. Starvation and malnutrition are a constant presence in rural England.