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The Magic Apple Tree: A Country Year

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Looking out from Moon Cottage, Susan Hill records the sights and smells, the people, gardens, animals, births, festivals and deaths that mark the changing-seasons in the small Oxfordshire community.


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Looking out from Moon Cottage, Susan Hill records the sights and smells, the people, gardens, animals, births, festivals and deaths that mark the changing-seasons in the small Oxfordshire community.

30 review for The Magic Apple Tree: A Country Year

  1. 4 out of 5

    H.A. Leuschel

    A comforting read with many cooking and gardening tips embedded in an endearing portrait of English country life. Very enjoyable!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Theresa

    This is a comforting read! Definitely a book I want to keep on my shelf, for long winter evenings. Susan Hill describes life in the country in 'ye old England'-village-style. She writes very warmly about old houses, friendly villagers, changing seasons, countryside beauty and nature. She even includes favorite recipes (gotta try that red cabbage one, and the tea bread!) Not a novel (in case fiction is your thing), and not even written in a 'memoir' style, this is just more of a book you can pick This is a comforting read! Definitely a book I want to keep on my shelf, for long winter evenings. Susan Hill describes life in the country in 'ye old England'-village-style. She writes very warmly about old houses, friendly villagers, changing seasons, countryside beauty and nature. She even includes favorite recipes (gotta try that red cabbage one, and the tea bread!) Not a novel (in case fiction is your thing), and not even written in a 'memoir' style, this is just more of a book you can pick up and read a chapter or two (choose a season. What do you feel like reading about; spring, summer, winter or fall?) when you want to have a 'get away' and read about country life in a quiet setting

  3. 4 out of 5

    John Frankham

    This season-by-season narrative of Susan Hill's year in an Oxfordshire village cottage is really rather dull, smug, and self-indulgent. If you are a country-dweller, the response must be 'so what' and 'remember this is told by a member of the metropolitan literary mafia, married to an Oxford professor, and living only six miles from the city.' Playing at it. If you like urban life, then the response will be 'so boring.' As for the Magic Apple Tree, merely an opening chapter device to provide a go This season-by-season narrative of Susan Hill's year in an Oxfordshire village cottage is really rather dull, smug, and self-indulgent. If you are a country-dweller, the response must be 'so what' and 'remember this is told by a member of the metropolitan literary mafia, married to an Oxford professor, and living only six miles from the city.' Playing at it. If you like urban life, then the response will be 'so boring.' As for the Magic Apple Tree, merely an opening chapter device to provide a good title.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Katherine

    I absolutely loved this book! I previously enjoyed Susan Hill's nonfiction books, Howards End is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home and Through the Garden Gate, so I decided to seek out additional nonfiction titles of hers. This one I ended up having to order used from the UK but it was so worth it. In it Hill shares with readers a full year of life in the country as her family moves to a cottage in the village Barley, Oxfordshire, circa 1980's. It's full of wonderful observations and m I absolutely loved this book! I previously enjoyed Susan Hill's nonfiction books, Howards End is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home and Through the Garden Gate, so I decided to seek out additional nonfiction titles of hers. This one I ended up having to order used from the UK but it was so worth it. In it Hill shares with readers a full year of life in the country as her family moves to a cottage in the village Barley, Oxfordshire, circa 1980's. It's full of wonderful observations and musings about their new home, gardening, local creatures, cooking, and village life. A homey read, interesting, insightful and comforting and I savored every moment. A lovely book. Highly recommended. 5 stars

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. (view spoiler)[ Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)] (view spoiler)[ Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)]

  6. 4 out of 5

    ladydusk

    Own on Kindle. I loved this book. Fantastic. I loved the long thoughts on food, creatures, gardens, people season by season. I loved the lyrical language that stayed down to earth. This book almost made me want to garden ... until I remembered that I don't like bugs, dirt, or being outside. I love the idea, though and we do hope to keep a small garden this summer. I want to know the people she describes better. I want to know the Hon. Claire and Mr. Baker the gardener. I want to see more of Hill's Own on Kindle. I loved this book. Fantastic. I loved the long thoughts on food, creatures, gardens, people season by season. I loved the lyrical language that stayed down to earth. This book almost made me want to garden ... until I remembered that I don't like bugs, dirt, or being outside. I love the idea, though and we do hope to keep a small garden this summer. I want to know the people she describes better. I want to know the Hon. Claire and Mr. Baker the gardener. I want to see more of Hill's husband and daughter. I'd like to see pictures of Moon Cottage and the town to see if it matches my imagination. I saw some reviews that compared this with The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek which I struggled through last summer. In my opinion, this is what I wish Pilgrim had been. Beautiful language, living a life, approachable and painting wonderful word pictures ... on a clearly defined subject. In many ways I wish I hadn't read this as quickly as I did, but it was hard to stop when I got started.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Darbyshire

    Have read books by Susan Hill before this book was a complete surprise. A beautifully observed study of village life. The village characters and the way they were described reminded me so much of the "Miss Read" books which I really enjoyed. I loved the descriptions of the countryside in the changing seasons as in the city they are never quite so distinct. I have now bought a hard copy of this book as it is one of the books I want to have at hand to dip into. Have read books by Susan Hill before this book was a complete surprise. A beautifully observed study of village life. The village characters and the way they were described reminded me so much of the "Miss Read" books which I really enjoyed. I loved the descriptions of the countryside in the changing seasons as in the city they are never quite so distinct. I have now bought a hard copy of this book as it is one of the books I want to have at hand to dip into.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    Loved this book!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    By the author of The Woman in Black this is a completely different kettle of fish altogether. Documenting a whole year of her life in Moon Cottage in a small Oxfordshire village during the 1980's. The book is split into seasons, starting with winter, and then split into chapters covering such things as village life, creatures, cooking, the garden, people, the wood, festivals and many other subjects. Overlooking all of it is the Apple Tree in the garden, gnarled, weathered and constant. Throughou By the author of The Woman in Black this is a completely different kettle of fish altogether. Documenting a whole year of her life in Moon Cottage in a small Oxfordshire village during the 1980's. The book is split into seasons, starting with winter, and then split into chapters covering such things as village life, creatures, cooking, the garden, people, the wood, festivals and many other subjects. Overlooking all of it is the Apple Tree in the garden, gnarled, weathered and constant. Throughout there are lovely engravings by John Lawrence depicting the year passing around. We are taken through all the lovely transitions of nature and how Susan and the other villagers lived alongside it, worked with it, and with each other to share their strengths and look out for each other. This is not a book about self sufficiency but about people living side by side. In fact Susan says she doesn't believe anyone can be totally self sufficient and she has seen many a well-meaning person arrive in the village only to depart a year or so later. The secret is not to exist alone but to exist as a community and this is a strong message that comes through in the book. Susan's voice is unassuming and very easy to listen to, describing the beauties of the home she clearly loves and the people of the village. I loved hearing about the Twomey brothers who make cider, the WI autumn fair where jams and cakes are on show, the carol singing in winter, the preserving week in autumn, the hens, the cats, the walks with the dog in the woods. It is not about a super-woman ploughing the land single-handed in all weathers, but an attainable life in a small community, and what that meant to the author. It is quiet, observant and gentle. Looking for lights in the other houses, picking damsons, riding your bike up and down the lanes. I totally loved this book. I felt a calmness descend upon me whenever I picked it up. Described as a 'comfort book' it was a pure pleasure to read and I recommend it to anyone with an interest in country life with nature and the English countryside on your doorstep.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    4.5+ stars This is one of those books I had to own...so I could come back to it again. Perfect for winter reading, with calming, quiet commentary on the details of country life in and around the English village of Barley. Chronicling their first year living in Moon Cottage, Hill takes us through all four seasons, sharing her observations of nature, primarily, along with snapshots of people and happenings in the area. I especially admire Hill's competent, comfortable writing. Makes me want to stop 4.5+ stars This is one of those books I had to own...so I could come back to it again. Perfect for winter reading, with calming, quiet commentary on the details of country life in and around the English village of Barley. Chronicling their first year living in Moon Cottage, Hill takes us through all four seasons, sharing her observations of nature, primarily, along with snapshots of people and happenings in the area. I especially admire Hill's competent, comfortable writing. Makes me want to stop by Moon Cottage for tea and a chat, or maybe to pitch in with preserving damsons, or to come along on an early morning bike ride. The book's only real fault, in my opinion, is its title. It doesn't do the contents justice.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    I first read this book not long after it was published. It remains one of my favourite books. Over the years it has become one of my 'comfort books', those I turn to when the world's just a bit too much to cope with. It's beautifully written and the illustrations are perfectly suited to the content. I have two copies because I read the original so many times it fell to pieces. I've loaned it to friends and bought a copy for a friend when she was forced to quit her job due to being bullied. It ga I first read this book not long after it was published. It remains one of my favourite books. Over the years it has become one of my 'comfort books', those I turn to when the world's just a bit too much to cope with. It's beautifully written and the illustrations are perfectly suited to the content. I have two copies because I read the original so many times it fell to pieces. I've loaned it to friends and bought a copy for a friend when she was forced to quit her job due to being bullied. It gave her great comfort. It offers me peace whenever I read it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Joy O’Toole

    This is a lovely, satisfying book to read if you love the English countryside, gardens, cooking, village life, wild animal watching, or beautiful prose. I read it slowly, savoring each chapter, mulling over in my mind the word pictures Susan Hill creates as she delights in and describes each season of the year. Again and again she put into words what I have often felt about the different seasons and I know that I will re-read this book many times.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lynette

    I loved this book. It reminded me on a very basic level of Annie Dillard's work, specifically Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (coincidentally, Susan Hill's dog is named Tinker). I found it inspirational, especially when she writes about the vegetable gardening. I kept stopping to take notes! This book is on my "to buy" list. I loved this book. It reminded me on a very basic level of Annie Dillard's work, specifically Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (coincidentally, Susan Hill's dog is named Tinker). I found it inspirational, especially when she writes about the vegetable gardening. I kept stopping to take notes! This book is on my "to buy" list.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Katrina Zartman

    A beautifully written book. The author does a wonderful job of sharing her life, season by season, in an English village. The reader gets to live through the joys and struggles of fixing up a cottage, planting a garden, etc. only having to lift a finger to turn the pages. A good book to buy and reread passages at leisure.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Marie Shirley Griffin

    What a fabulous book! She writes about her first couple of years when they (her husband and child) moved into a very old cottage. While some of the writing is about practical things, she has made magic of all of it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    C A Bringloe

    So enjoyable I used to live on a village just like the one in the book. We also had an allotment and everyone shared the produce. I really enjoyed this book it is well written and nice to read

  17. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Loved every sentence, so soothing. Don't rush reading this a few pages a night is just enough. Will dip into again and again Loved every sentence, so soothing. Don't rush reading this a few pages a night is just enough. Will dip into again and again

  18. 4 out of 5

    Adrian

    Stand at the top of the seven stone steps. Moon Cottage, and that part of the garden that lies in front of it, are at your feet, and the apple tree is straight ahead, your eyes are level with its lower branches. Through them, you see the rise and fall of the fields beyond, piled upon one another like pillows. This book is a wonderful journey through a year in the life of Susan Hill during her time living at Moon Cottage, in the small village of Barley. Split between the four seasons it tells Stand at the top of the seven stone steps. Moon Cottage, and that part of the garden that lies in front of it, are at your feet, and the apple tree is straight ahead, your eyes are level with its lower branches. Through them, you see the rise and fall of the fields beyond, piled upon one another like pillows. This book is a wonderful journey through a year in the life of Susan Hill during her time living at Moon Cottage, in the small village of Barley. Split between the four seasons it tells of the plants and crops she grows, of the animal and bird visitors to the cottage and village, and provides tips from country life. Once upon a time, everyone who had a bit of back garden, in country or town, kept a few chickens and it is a pity there are so many bye-laws forbidding it in residential areas now. They are only anti-social if a cockerel is kept within earshot, or the hen-run is not tended properly, and allowed to smell and attract vermin. Utterly charming the book deserves to be read at the same slow pace that portrays. An additional bonus is the array of recipes thrown in, all of which are inspiring and I will be looking for good, local grown, produce to try and recreate them. Quarter, core and finely shred a red cabbage. Peel, core and chop one or two apples (eaters or cookers), chop one onion, and one clove of garlic (optional). Melt 1oz butter in a big, heavy casserole. Add cabbage and cook gently with the lid on for about 5 minutes. Then add apples, onion, garlic, some herbs such as a bayleaf, chopped parsley and thyme, two tablespoons of brown sugar, a small teacup of wine or cider, or half that quantity of wine vinegar, lots of salt and black pepper, and a little grated nutmeg. Cook in a low oven for 3–4 hours, but check it after each hour and add a little water (or wine and water or cider) if it is drying up. Even better re-heated.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Hope

    Some books can be devoured in a couple of sittings and others are meant to be savored slowly. The Magic Apple Tree by mystery writer Susan Hill falls into the latter category. In it she recounts a year of living in the English countryside. It was a perfect follow-up to the two Thrush Green books I had just read. She begins with winter, introducing the tree (“The trunk is knobbly and each branch and twig twists and turns back upon itself, like old, arthritic hands”), Moon cottage, and her daily r Some books can be devoured in a couple of sittings and others are meant to be savored slowly. The Magic Apple Tree by mystery writer Susan Hill falls into the latter category. In it she recounts a year of living in the English countryside. It was a perfect follow-up to the two Thrush Green books I had just read. She begins with winter, introducing the tree (“The trunk is knobbly and each branch and twig twists and turns back upon itself, like old, arthritic hands”), Moon cottage, and her daily routines. “In winter, I often spend all day in the kitchen, it is in winter that I love it best, and it is then that I most enjoy my own particular sort of cooking best, too, for one of the richest pleasures of domestic life is, and has always been, filling the house with the smells of food, of baking breads and cakes, bubbling casseroles and simmering soups, of vegetables fresh from the garden and quickly steamed, of the roasting of meat, of new-ground coffee and pounded spices and chopped herbs, of hot marmalade and jam and jelly.” I am not a gardener, but I enjoyed her anthropomorphic descriptions of plants: “Most French beans are low-growing. But I find them horribly neurotic; they hate the cold, in the air or in the soil, refuse to germinate for the slightest of reasons, then refuse to flower, or crop sparsely, or wilt suddenly, when six inches high, for no discernible reason, or collapse on to the ground after heavy rain.” In the spring section she writes more about her gardening techniques, eschewing all the gardening books by “experts” because of her non-typical garden (high winds, clay soil, etc.) I enjoyed reading how she adapted her expectations to fit her reality. Plenty of good life lessons there. The cadence of the writing and of the seasons is gentle and soothing. As Hill finds sanctuary, so do we. A delightful book!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tree Riesener

    This is a very pleasant, non-stressful book to read when you need that sort of book. If you are a gardener or cook, there is much useful information (and even recipes). I found the parts about the English character and habits more interesting, showing a way of life that is, I think, almost gone. Susan Hill has a lovely prose style, as you will know if you have read her fiction.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Julie Blackstock

    I loved this book. I listened to it on audio book and it was a real treasure. So beautiful and descriptive. I really wished I lived in the cottage too. This book takes you through the seasons and its really rich and a real treat for a day in front of the fire drinking hot chocolate. I now want to move to a village just like this one

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kay Pelham

    This is a very detailed account of a year in the country. She covers flora and fauna, as well as the people and community life and events. More stars would have been given by me had I not struggled with the fact that this will probably never ever be my life.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    A delightful book. I loved this book. It's a beautifully written story of living through the 4 seasons of a year in a town in the English countryside. Gardening, celebrations, friendships and so much more. A delightful book. I loved this book. It's a beautifully written story of living through the 4 seasons of a year in a town in the English countryside. Gardening, celebrations, friendships and so much more.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Alicia

    I am a fan of Susan Hill's ghost stories - her writing is beautiful and measured. This book is very different and from early in her career. I enjoyed the details of creatures, cooking and growing and village life and her enjoyment of nature and her present moment. A wonderful read to meditate on. I am a fan of Susan Hill's ghost stories - her writing is beautiful and measured. This book is very different and from early in her career. I enjoyed the details of creatures, cooking and growing and village life and her enjoyment of nature and her present moment. A wonderful read to meditate on.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    A year in the life of the author’s garden/village. Would have been more enjoyable if I’d agreed with more of Hill’s opinions! Interesting enough to keep me reading to the end, but didn’t look forward to picking it up and didn’t feel enough kinship with the author to feel that warmth which makes books like this work best.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Christine McCann

    Satisfying reading Live vicariously in an English village through this book. Thoughtful and at times lyrical prose. Follow the seasons and enjoy rural Oxfordshire.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Georgina Gowland

    What a gem of a book. Quite delightful. ❤

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    A charming, whimsical book of a year spent living in an English village. Utterly delightful.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Linda Chrisman

    A lovely, gentle, charming book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sonia Bellhouse

    When a talented author describes a year of rural living- its magical journey. Tramping across the snow singing carols to harvesting their own garden produce. Its a seasonal delight and a nostalgia trip for a British Expat like me. Lyrical and so well described. One I will keep forever.

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