Review of “A Neighbour’s Landmark” (1925)


M. R. James (writer).

Read in 2017.

Only, when I turned to it again, the taste was gone out of it. The sun was down behind the hill, and the light was off the fields, and when the clock bell in the Church tower struck seven, I thought no longer of kind mellow evening hours of rest, and scents of flowers and woods on evening air; and of how someone on a farm a mile or two off would be saying ‘How clear Betton bell sounds tonight after the rain!’; but instead images came to me of dusty beams and creeping spiders and savage owls up in the tower, and forgotten graves and their ugly contents below, and of flying Time and all it had taken out of my life. And just then into my left ear — close as if lips had been put within an inch of my head, the frightful scream came thrilling again.

I wish James had worked more with landscapes and nature, as he does here. It’s much more beautiful than his usual dialogue-driven style. I don’t mind the self-consciously, even explicitly Victorian opening.

References here: “A View from a Hill” (1925).

text fiction