Rural Hours

Rural Hours

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


Brought to you by Penguin.

1917. Virginia Woolf arrives at Asheham, on the Sussex Downs, immobilized by nervous exhaustion and creative block.

1930. Feeling jittery about her writing career, Sylvia Townsend Warner spots a modest workman’s cottage for sale on the Dorset coast.

1941. Rosamond Lehmann settles in a Berkshire village, seeking a lovers’ retreat, a refuge from war, and a means of becoming ‘a writer again’.

Rural Hours tells the story of three very different women, each of whom moved to the country and were 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. Invigorated by new landscapes, and the daily trials and small pleasures of making homes, they emerge from long periods of creative uncertainty and private disappointment; they embark on new experiments in form, in feeling and in living. 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.

Graceful, fluid, and enriched by previously untouched archival material, Rural Hours is both a paean to the bravery and vision of three pioneering writers, and a passionate invitation to us all: to recognize the radical potential of domestic life and rural places, and find new enchantment in the routines and rituals of each day.

©2024 Harriet Baker (P)2024 Penguin Audio


  • 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

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Harriet Baker

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