Explore the world of H.E. Bates: Classic Novels

Explore the world of
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Feast of july cover


From the very beginning his empathy towards women was a powerful influence on his work. H.E. was only 20 when he wrote his first novel, The Two Sisters, an intimate portrait of two young sisters oppressed by their father following the death of their mother. His publishers assumed it must have been written by a woman.

Many of his early novels reflect the struggles and determination of the women in his family. The Feast of July was inspired by his broken hearted grandmother who died of grief when her lover refused to marry her following the birth of their child. In The Poacher, A House of Women and The Fallow Land he also returns to the landscapes of his youth and the stories of women whose families survival depended on them alone.

Bruno Shadwell’s epic story in the novel Spella Ho is also the story of the women he befriends, loves and betrays on his journey from poverty to riches, to prison and riches again. Ambitious, admired, feared and hated, he is the epitome of an age greedy for industrialisation and power.

Love for lydia cover

Love for Lydia

In this beautiful semi-autobiographical novel set in the 1920’s, Love for Lydia, H.E. returns to the landscape and friendships of his youth, the complexities and innocence of first love, and the bitter reality of jealousy, tragedy and loss.

When the young narrator, Richardson, falls under the spell of the beautiful and seemingly shy Lydia, he is forced to realise that we are not always what we seem, that love is not a right, and that his promise to love her, no matter what she does, may push him beyond a pain he can bear.

Love for Lydia is so exquisitely written, so accurate on both the glorious and dangerous aspects of obsessive love, and so precise in its portrait of a time and place, it seems to me to be timeless.
- Joanna Briscoe

Did You Know?

  • Donna Lewis’s song "I Love You Always, Forever" is a tribute to Love for Lydia
  • 9 out of 11 of these novels are set in his home county of Northamptonshire