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The Fallow Land
Page Count
Word Count
Jonathan Cape
R.O. Ballou
Publication Year
Document Types
Radio Dramatizations
Original Manuscript (mss)
Rural Living, Farming

London: Jonathan Cape, 1932 (October 3). New York: R.O. Ballou, 1933.
Dedication: "To Violet & Vernon Dean."

Bates's fourth novel, completed in May 1932 and started in either late 1931 or January 1932, is the first of a string of novels set in the English Midlands before and shortly after the first World War (followed by The Poacher, A House of Women, and Spella Ho). It depicts a woman's courageous struggles with her land and with numerous personal setbacks.

Bates would later write that "The setting ...was precisely that part of the Nene Valley where I had grown up with my grandfather [George Lucas] as a boy; and in a sense it was his story, his struggle that I had transposed to the woman, and her struggle, in the novel. It now occurs to me that, if I only had known of it at the time, The Sorrowful Field would have been the apter title" (The Blossoming World, p. 91).

The novel was dramatized by David H Godfrey for BBC Radio in 1961 in a 90-minute production starring Denise Brier, Geoffrey Matthews, Olwyn Griffiths and Peter Williams.

L.A.G. Strong, whose review of Bates's previous novel (Charlotte's Row) was entirely negative, found The Fallow Land to be "much the best piece of work which Mr. Bates has done; and that means that it is very good indeed...It is full, satisfying, written with knowledge, and abounding in passages of real beauty which are not interpolated but flower naturally in their context. The Fallow Land carries Mr. Bates a step forward, and marks him as one of a handful who can write of the country with grace and with authority." The New York Times commented that "Mr. Bates's characters, especially his women, are extraordinarly lively and accurate...But perhaps the best thing about the book is the lovely prose in which it is written, matter-of-fact and yet half poetic, in which each word and phrase is so unobtrusively right as to be almost unnoticeable." The Times called it "Mr. Bates's best as it is his most ambitious novel...Every descriptive phrase, each metaphor, each adjective even, is right, and with a natural, a wholly spontaneous rightness. Every character, like each instrument in an orchestra, has his or her appointed place and part, yet is vividly and individually alive." Geoffrey West in the Times Literary Supplement called it "a poem of the English countryside which never loses its lyric intensity, its delicacy and yet its strength, from first to last."

A manuscript is held at The Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas. (Manuscript Collection MS-00261)


  • Life & Letters (December 1932, p. 476, Brian Roberts, attached)
  • The New Statesman and Nation (October 15, 1932, p. 453, Phyllis Bentley, attached)
  • New Statesman and Nation (comments by David Garnett)
  • New York Times (January 15, 1933, attached)
  • Now and Then (Winter 1932, Winifred Holtby, attached)
  • The Spectator (October 15, 1932, p. 491, L.A.G. Strong, attached)
  • The Times (October 4, 1932, p. 20, attached)
  • Times Literary Supplement (October 6, 1932, p. 708, Geoffrey West, attached)
  • Bookman (November, 1932, p. 134, Wynyard Browne, attached)
  • Saturday Review of Literature (January 28, 1933, p. 404, attached)