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ID
a80
Title
The Feast of July
Genre
Novel
Page Count
224
Word Count
63000
Publisher
Michael Joseph
Woman's Own
Publication Year
1954
Document Types
Film & Television
Autobiographical
Evensford (setting)
Topics
Sex, Shoemakers

London: Michael Joseph, 1954; Boston: Little Brown and Company (An Atlantic Monthly Press Book), 1954. Serialized in Woman's Own (6 weekly parts, September-October, 1954). Excerpted in 1974 in Living with the title "A Countryman Remembers - The Changing Seasons." Published in 1955 with the title The Valley of Love (Popular Library). A novel that continues the backward glance at Bates's Northamptonshire roots of Love for Lydia but matches in style, topic, and setting the even earlier novels of Bates's pre-war period in depicting the challenges of rural life in the 1880s. A girl, seduced and abandoned by an older and married man, searches for him and eventually finds him. The girl finds refuge with the Wainwright family, based on Bates's great-grandfather on his father's side (Mr. Lawrence, also a town lamplighter). It is largely set in Evensford, based on Bates's hometown of Rushden, and features scenes of shoemaking, harvesting, and village festivals reminiscent of Bates's many tributes to country life.

A 1995 movie version (Merchant Ivory, directed by Christopher Menaul, with Embeth Davidtz, Ben Chaplin, and Tom Bell) powerfully captured the atmosphere and characters of the novel, but altered the ending by hanging Con Wainwright, rather than having Bella wait for his release from prison. Reviews for the most part praised Bates's ability to depict the English countryside while criticizing his treatment of people and their relationships. The Times Literary Supplement writes that "Mr. Bates's characters, too [like his depictions of the countryside], are well drawn, but the very facility with which he spins his story puts a gloss between his perception and ours that prevents us from becoming deeply concerned in their fate. Also one is inclined to suspect that Mr. Bates is more interested in moods than in people, and this, too, removes some of the reality of his characters." Reviews: New Statesman and Nation (November 6, 1954, p. 589, Maurice Richardson, attached) New York Times (September 19, 1954, p. BR5, James Stern, attached) Saturday Review of Literature (September 18, 1954, p. 17, Oliver LaFarge, attached) Spectator (October 29, 1954, p. 532, Kingsley Amis, attached) Times (October 13, 1954. p. 8, attached) Times Literary Supplement (October 29, 1954, p. 685, David Tylden-Wright, attached)