Henry Williamson: Tarka And The Last Romantic By Anne Williamson
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When Tarka the Otter was first published in 1927, it was warmly praised by Thomas Hardy and was awarded the Hawthornden Prize. It also established its author, Henry Williamson, as a writer of considerable stature. Altogether he wrote over fifty books, including his first work, The Flax of Dream tetralogy, and Salar the Salmon, while the series of his later years, A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight, was published to widespread acclaim.
Born in Brockley, Henry Williamson spent his early life in south-east London, and it was during his explorations of the Kent countryside that his love of nature was first inspired. He was a soldier in the First World War, fighting on the Western Front and participating in the Christmas Truce; it is on this period of his life that the Chronicle novels of the 1950s draw, his descriptions of life in the trenches considered by many to be the finest of their kind. After the war, with life in his family proving difficult, and his first novel accepted, he made the decisive move to Devon (‘all my eggs are in my one basket of literature’) and set out to make a living as a full-time writer. From this period sprang his Village tales, and other natural history writings, which depict accurately and with feeling the countryside and people with which he was surrounded. During the Second World War he went to live as a farmer in Norfolk, but he found farming interfered too much with his writing, and after the war he returned to Devon.
The book also discusses his relationships with women and with his children. Always searching for the love that would make him complete, Henry’s domestic arrangements were constantly fraught. His first marriage to Loetitia Hibbert, though they had six children, was coloured by his extra-marital liaisons, especially his long affair with Ann Thomas, who bore him a daughter. For a while he was happy in his second marriage which gave him the stability with which to write the great work of his later years, A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight.
Hardcover. Published by Sutton Publishing 1995
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