Rural Hours

Rural Hours

The Country Lives of Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Townsend Warner and Rosamond Lehmann



‘A superb portrait of the complex imprint the countryside makes on the life of the mind … A treasure’ Doireann Ní Ghríofa

In Rural Hours, Harriet Baker tells the story of three very different women, each of whom moved to the countryside and was forever changed by it. We encounter them at quiet moments – pausing to look at an insect on the windowsill; jotting down a recipe; or digging for potatoes, dirt beneath their nails. Slowly, we start to see transformations unfold: Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Townsend Warner, and Rosamond Lehmann emerge before us as the passionate, visionary writers we know them to be.

Following long periods of creative uncertainty and private disappointment, each of Baker's subjects is invigorated by new landscapes, and the daily trials and small pleasures of making a home; slowly, they embark on new experiments in form, in feeling and in living that would resonate throughout the rest of their lives. In the country, each woman finds her path: to convalescence and recovery; to sexual and political awakening; and, above all, to personal freedom and creative flourishing.

In graceful, fluid prose, Baker vividly recreates these overlooked episodes, revealing how ‘rural hours’ defined the lives of three pioneering writers. In the end, she shows, their example is an invitation to us all: to recognize the radical and creative potential of rural places, and find new enchantment in the rituals of each day.

‘Warm, perceptive, eloquent … Like Baker’s protagonists in their countryside boltholes I felt “socketed” by this book. I know I’ll return to it again and again’ Lauren Elkin

‘A meditative exploration of renewal, visionariness, grievous loss, and love – cool and passionate, fragile and enduring’ David Hayden


  • An outstanding piece of literary scholarship ... A biography that is far more intimate than most ... By choosing to embrace the daily routines of rural life, Baker proposes, these women found that the quality of their attention shifted ... Rural Hours is also a provocation to the present. No one could finish this book without concluding that the most important thing to any writer is solitude ... [It] reminds us that today we too often fail to afford our writers this necessity
    Charlotte Stroud, Financial Times

About the author

Harriet Baker

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