I’d heard great things about Jo Baker’s previous novel Longbourn so was excited to have the opportunity to read an early copy of her latest novel, A Country Road, A Tree.
‘The world is ending, and it is exuberantly, ridiculously beautiful.’
Told in three parts, A Country Road, A Tree is a fictional re-telling of the life of Irish writer Samuel Beckett. It covers the events which occurred between 1939 and 1946, a significant period of time in Beckett’s life, not least due to the arrival of the Second World War. Rather than return to Ireland he chooses to remain in wartime Paris with his friends, the first step in an incredible story. From this point we get to see how Beckett evades the Gestapo and how he becomes involved with the resistance during the conflicts. Alongside these events the story also focuses on his relationship with his partner Suzanne as the two of them cope with the physical and psychological struggles that war brings.
‘The water wears the rock, the rock crumbles, the water dries, the moon itself will fall to dust and there will be no one left to contemplate it.’
Admittedly it took me a while to get into this novel but once I had I found it to be an interesting portrayal of Beckett’s life and the events which ultimately shaped the person he became. It explores the range of human emotions he experiences as he tries to find his creative voice in the midst of a troubling time. It shows his courage and bravery as he puts his life in danger rather than returning to safety. It also presents the doubts he has in himself as he tries to establish his place as a writer. Then there are his relationships – his feelings towards his lover Suzanne and to his mentor, James Joyce, amongst others. This is a delicately paced book and the writing has a poetic, lyrical feel to it. Whilst it was a slower pace then I usually enjoy I did like the writing and there were some beautifully written passages that perfectly capture the imagery and the sense of time and place.
‘If one is not writing, one is not quite oneself, don’t you find?’
A Country Road, A Tree is a wonderfully written book that provides fascinating insight into one writer’s life. It tells the story of the remarkable journey which shaped his life and identity, and resulted in him becoming arguably one of the most influential writers of the 20th century.
A Country Road, A Tree is to be published on 5th May 2016 by Doubleday. Many thanks to Alison Barrow for providing a proof copy for review.