Settings and Locations. Rural Landscape.
How to weave words into settings? The temptation is to be a bit heavy-handed with the adjectives - but then you end up with one of those bumpy rugs instead of a neatly woven delight to walk on! George Eliot, in The Mill On The Floss, brings alive the landscape and setting and soon conveys the importance of the river without the use of clunking adjectives. I'm reminded of the Lucy Boston stories about her beloved Hemingford Grey. In The Children of Green Knowe she explains that the river is a lively inhabitant. If a writer is able to animate aspects of the countryside, then there is little need for poetical description. Once a river, a tree, or any other part of the landscape comes alive, then the story/account is accessible without the need to unravel unnecessary packaging. Don't get me wrong - I've played games with poetic prose so that music sings from the page but I'm also aware that the same music drowns out what I'm trying to say. Before I know it, I've missed a trick. Another rug with knots.
Although we think of the countryside as idyllic, we know well what a struggle it has often been to live and work there. The February hedger cursed the bitter cold at the same time as feeling an essential part of the system. Aspects of the rural landscape are seen as cohabiting with the subject. This approach in writing gives a raw edge to a piece and, as such, is close to the nerve of the reader. Any writer who can tap into that sense of connection has my respect. In her chilling book, The Woman In Black, Susan Hill is able to convey the reader to Eel Marsh with ease. It is almost as though each of us has a connection with a terrible wilderness and writers like Susan Hill, with an economy of language, are able to transport us there in a moment. Susan Hill's autobiographical book, The Magic Apple Tree, is presented in a far more lyrical way but what a joy it is to dip into it and become at once a wanderer amongst its hedgerows and orchards.
My final word must go to Elizabeth von Arnim. April may have been wonderful in Paris but how enchanted was April on the Italian Riviera under her astute and generous penmanship. The Enchanted April oozes colour and a gratitude for the power of a break in the country.