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Award-winning author Morag Joss has penned a beautifully rendered, meticulously crafted, and terrifyingly gripping novel of suspense—ideal for the fans of Eowyn Ivey, Ruth Rendell, and Barbara Vine. One night, two strangers. A damage that cannot be undone. For thirty years, Howard and Deborah Morgan have poured all their energy and modest savings into Stoneyridge, a smallhold Award-winning author Morag Joss has penned a beautifully rendered, meticulously crafted, and terrifyingly gripping novel of suspense—ideal for the fans of Eowyn Ivey, Ruth Rendell, and Barbara Vine. One night, two strangers. A damage that cannot be undone. For thirty years, Howard and Deborah Morgan have poured all their energy and modest savings into Stoneyridge, a smallholding deep in the English moors. Howard putters with pottery, Deborah dabbles in weaving, and both struggle to tend sheep and chickens and live off the land. But what began with simple dreams of solitude and sunlit picnics in the hills has given way to a harsher reality. To help with finances, they decide to turn Stoneyridge into a bed-and-breakfast. But a sudden stroke leaves Howard incapacitated and Deborah overwhelmed. Howard’s world, once so limitless, has shrunk to the confines of their crumbling house; Deborah’s main joy now comes in the form of a brief weekly email from their successful son, who lives abroad. Then, late one evening, two men arrive needing a room for the night—and set off a chain of events that uncovers the relics of old tragedies. New wounds are cut deep, betrayals and cruelties intermix with tenderness and love. And through it all, Stoneyridge quietly hides the bitter and transformative truth. Evocative, intimately claustrophobic, and psychologically complex, 'Our Picnics in the Sun' is a novel of stunning prose and knife-sharp insight. Morag Joss crafts a modern masterpiece of rising tension that binds and releases like a beating heart, propelling readers to a final page that resonates and haunts. Praise for Morag Joss’s 'Among the Missing': “This remarkable novel has an abundance of suspense at its core, put forth in beautiful prose that all but glows on the page. . . . [Joss] keeps a jittery tension going as the novel spins toward its violent, grand-scaled finale.” - Booklist (starred review) “A haunting, harrowing punch to the heart, 'Among the Missing' is flat-out brilliant. About the secrets we keep, the lives we are desperate to live, and the chances we miss, it’s a psychological dazzler. Truly, one of my favorite books of this year—or any year.” — Caroline Leavitt, author of 'Is This Tomorrow' “Morag Joss is a writer who knows the old truth that genuine suspense comes not from car chases or gunplay but from the clash of conflicting hearts. 'Among the Missing' is evidence not of a rising talent but of one already fully formed.” — Thomas H. Cook, author of 'Sandrine’s Case' “A spectacular psychological thriller . . . Joss’s beautiful, evocative novel is filled with tension and suspense.” - RT Book Reviews


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Award-winning author Morag Joss has penned a beautifully rendered, meticulously crafted, and terrifyingly gripping novel of suspense—ideal for the fans of Eowyn Ivey, Ruth Rendell, and Barbara Vine. One night, two strangers. A damage that cannot be undone. For thirty years, Howard and Deborah Morgan have poured all their energy and modest savings into Stoneyridge, a smallhold Award-winning author Morag Joss has penned a beautifully rendered, meticulously crafted, and terrifyingly gripping novel of suspense—ideal for the fans of Eowyn Ivey, Ruth Rendell, and Barbara Vine. One night, two strangers. A damage that cannot be undone. For thirty years, Howard and Deborah Morgan have poured all their energy and modest savings into Stoneyridge, a smallholding deep in the English moors. Howard putters with pottery, Deborah dabbles in weaving, and both struggle to tend sheep and chickens and live off the land. But what began with simple dreams of solitude and sunlit picnics in the hills has given way to a harsher reality. To help with finances, they decide to turn Stoneyridge into a bed-and-breakfast. But a sudden stroke leaves Howard incapacitated and Deborah overwhelmed. Howard’s world, once so limitless, has shrunk to the confines of their crumbling house; Deborah’s main joy now comes in the form of a brief weekly email from their successful son, who lives abroad. Then, late one evening, two men arrive needing a room for the night—and set off a chain of events that uncovers the relics of old tragedies. New wounds are cut deep, betrayals and cruelties intermix with tenderness and love. And through it all, Stoneyridge quietly hides the bitter and transformative truth. Evocative, intimately claustrophobic, and psychologically complex, 'Our Picnics in the Sun' is a novel of stunning prose and knife-sharp insight. Morag Joss crafts a modern masterpiece of rising tension that binds and releases like a beating heart, propelling readers to a final page that resonates and haunts. Praise for Morag Joss’s 'Among the Missing': “This remarkable novel has an abundance of suspense at its core, put forth in beautiful prose that all but glows on the page. . . . [Joss] keeps a jittery tension going as the novel spins toward its violent, grand-scaled finale.” - Booklist (starred review) “A haunting, harrowing punch to the heart, 'Among the Missing' is flat-out brilliant. About the secrets we keep, the lives we are desperate to live, and the chances we miss, it’s a psychological dazzler. Truly, one of my favorite books of this year—or any year.” — Caroline Leavitt, author of 'Is This Tomorrow' “Morag Joss is a writer who knows the old truth that genuine suspense comes not from car chases or gunplay but from the clash of conflicting hearts. 'Among the Missing' is evidence not of a rising talent but of one already fully formed.” — Thomas H. Cook, author of 'Sandrine’s Case' “A spectacular psychological thriller . . . Joss’s beautiful, evocative novel is filled with tension and suspense.” - RT Book Reviews

30 review for Our Picnics in the Sun

  1. 5 out of 5

    ``Laurie Henderson

    This is the second book I've read by this author and I've given both books 5 stars. I'm surprised more people aren't reading her books of psychological suspense. This is the second book I've read by this author and I've given both books 5 stars. I'm surprised more people aren't reading her books of psychological suspense.

  2. 4 out of 5

    thePromoParrot

    Our Picnics in the Sun by Morag Joss captures the life and travails of Deborah and Howard Morgan who lead an idealistic life, eking out a living in Stoneyridge, deep in the England moors, with their son Adam. But when Adam leaves to pursue a career, things take a drastic change for the couple. Their pathetic condition worsened when Howard suffers an incapacitating stroke, rendering Deborah just to the role of a caregiver. The Morgans forget their pottery, their animals and their property. It is Our Picnics in the Sun by Morag Joss captures the life and travails of Deborah and Howard Morgan who lead an idealistic life, eking out a living in Stoneyridge, deep in the England moors, with their son Adam. But when Adam leaves to pursue a career, things take a drastic change for the couple. Their pathetic condition worsened when Howard suffers an incapacitating stroke, rendering Deborah just to the role of a caregiver. The Morgans forget their pottery, their animals and their property. It is indeed a sad time for them. Everything is in ruins. Deborah endurance reaches its limit as she becomes more and more frustrated with the life she is limited to. The kind of life she is living now is a far cry from the starry dreams they had when she and Howard first decided to live in the country. Our Picnics in the Sun is truly a sad and thoughtful story of a marriage and unfulfilled emotional lives. Adam is also raging with discontentment. His anger drives him far away from, little knowing that his parents are in a pathetic condition. He is frustrated with the inadequacy of his homeschooling education, the countryside, the terrible winters, food, and almost everything. He is angry at his parents, and at the way they brought him up. There is a foreboding sense of looming danger when two guests arrive needing a room one stormy night. One of them leaves in the morning but the other, a young man named Theo, who is about Adam’s age stays behind. Our Picnics in the Sun is a tale of love and loss, it is a story of the trivial disillusionments which plug our lives and hinder us from moving forward. The book is full of multifaceted characters, many of them obsessed with idealistic dreams which render them powerless to direct the course of their destiny.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Diana

    Very seldom do I award a book 5 stars. This book, while not uplifting, is a masterpiece. Complex, absorbing, insightful, sad and haunting. Joss can really tell a story and "get into" how a stroke victim feels, a lonely child, a self-absorbed husband and father and a disturbed mother and wife. The setting and environment is claustrophobic and a bit confusing but as the end of the story approaches, the threads become clearer, easier to see. I love Morag Joss's body of work! Very seldom do I award a book 5 stars. This book, while not uplifting, is a masterpiece. Complex, absorbing, insightful, sad and haunting. Joss can really tell a story and "get into" how a stroke victim feels, a lonely child, a self-absorbed husband and father and a disturbed mother and wife. The setting and environment is claustrophobic and a bit confusing but as the end of the story approaches, the threads become clearer, easier to see. I love Morag Joss's body of work!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    An unusual story of love and desperation. Of things lost and life's disappointments. An unusual story of love and desperation. Of things lost and life's disappointments.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Esthy

    This book made me feel greater compassion for my parents, with their faltering craft enterprises, their ailing herd of organic goats, their fox-persecuted chickens and geese etc. I feel for that group of the 60s/70s idealists who chose their path in the face of all their generation's rage, rebellion and idealism. They would grow organic herbs, make clogs, raise livestock humanely, free of hormones , cruel enclosures, no forced air heating, only wood fires, they would wear only pure cottons and i This book made me feel greater compassion for my parents, with their faltering craft enterprises, their ailing herd of organic goats, their fox-persecuted chickens and geese etc. I feel for that group of the 60s/70s idealists who chose their path in the face of all their generation's rage, rebellion and idealism. They would grow organic herbs, make clogs, raise livestock humanely, free of hormones , cruel enclosures, no forced air heating, only wood fires, they would wear only pure cottons and itchy wool. The children would play with only handmade toys of wood and felt. They would forge a pure and natural place for themselves and their children in this polluted, corrupt world! But in reality everyone would be cold, itchy, envious of barbie dolls, Discman players and would eventually leave their parents and the faltering, ailing utopia as soon as possible. This is the story of Deborah and Howard, their son Adam long departed their chilly, organic yoga-centric B&B endeavor for the more worldly (and comfortable) life. It's a mystery, a tragedy and a beautifully written spiritual story as well. Joss is a master of deep introspection brought on by claustrophobic circumstances incurred via mishap and character flaws. The construct is pleasantly reminiscent of her masterful Among the Missing, but somehow more subtle and moving. Well worth the read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. (view spoiler)[ Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)] (view spoiler)[ Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)]

  7. 5 out of 5

    mary

    Not a mystery in the sense of her earliest work, Our Picnics in the Sun is the latest in Morag Joss's explorations deep into human motivation, frustration, and isolation. Highest honors. Not a mystery in the sense of her earliest work, Our Picnics in the Sun is the latest in Morag Joss's explorations deep into human motivation, frustration, and isolation. Highest honors.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Maxine

    Deborah and Howard have lived in a smallholding on the bleak moors of Exmoor for over thirty years. They have spent most of their adult lives in a determined effort to 'return to the land', to eke out a living in balance with nature. They have tried to turn their rented land into many things, a B&B, a spiritual retreat, a spa but it all ended in disappointment. Just as they are planning to try a yoga retreat, Howard suffers a stroke. Deborah, now running things alone while taking care of Howard, Deborah and Howard have lived in a smallholding on the bleak moors of Exmoor for over thirty years. They have spent most of their adult lives in a determined effort to 'return to the land', to eke out a living in balance with nature. They have tried to turn their rented land into many things, a B&B, a spiritual retreat, a spa but it all ended in disappointment. Just as they are planning to try a yoga retreat, Howard suffers a stroke. Deborah, now running things alone while taking care of Howard, has only one joy in life - the weekly emails from their son, Adam. It is clear that Adam writes only out of a sense of duty but Deborah needs to believe he will come for a long awaited visit. Having convinced herself that Adam will come, she prepares everything to make him happy including his favourite meal. However, instead of Adam, two men appear at the door. Despite Deborah's attempts to make them leave, they insist they will only stay one night. This one small incident will have a huge impact on Deborah and Howard's lives bringing all their disappointments, mistakes, and failures to the surface, forcing them to reevaluate everything they have done and believed. As I read this novel, I kept thinking of the words of Thoreau: "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them." So I wasn't surprised when, in some notes at the end, author Morag Joss mentions this quote. Our Picnics in the Sun is a story of love and loss, of the small disappointments which fill our lives and keep us from moving or moving on. It is filled with complex characters, driven by unrealistic hopes, thwarted by luck, and unable to change the direction of their lives.The story is told, in the present, by Deborah, who until the end is not always a reliable narrator and, even at the end, she does not tell us everything. In the past, Adam's story is told in third person as we learn how he became so divorced from his parents. It is only near the end, we learn what has chained Howard and Deborah to this land despite all their disappointments. It is only when they begin to understand what has kept them here that resolution is possible. The end, itself, is both unsettling and inevitable and one that will resonate with the reader long after they turn the last page.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Chaitra

    Debated where to put this, before settling on a 3. The story is a mystery about two old people - one disabled and the other not really spiffy - taken in by a mysterious stranger who is supposed to help them. Or something. Told mainly in 2 perspectives of the two old people, the couple Howard & Deborah, it's unclear as to who is the unreliable narrator till the very end. The back and forth between them is of the same events told slightly differently. The love-hate dynamic between them, and of pas Debated where to put this, before settling on a 3. The story is a mystery about two old people - one disabled and the other not really spiffy - taken in by a mysterious stranger who is supposed to help them. Or something. Told mainly in 2 perspectives of the two old people, the couple Howard & Deborah, it's unclear as to who is the unreliable narrator till the very end. The back and forth between them is of the same events told slightly differently. The love-hate dynamic between them, and of past and present and of the various disappointments of their life is wonderfully written, and highly depressing. They are unlikeable protagonists, but there's something really human about them that makes it hard to not care. The problem is that it's rather obvious as to where it's heading towards. The pointers are in each of their narratives, and they are there early. The unfolding of the mystery on the page is consequently too slow. Some of the crazy stuff Howard put Deborah and Adam through could've been trimmed as well. The ending is unclear, which is fine. But there are some points that aren't resolved, which should have been. For example - (view spoiler)[Theo is an imaginary person Deborah made up from her dead son, true. But were the two strangers in the middle of the night real? If so, did one of them truly stay behind (hide spoiler)] ? This wouldn't have taken away from the ending at all. All in all, I would have wanted it to read slightly faster. But it's a great character study nonetheless, as much as a couple of unreliable narrators can contribute to a character study. I'm glad I read it, even if it's depressing. 3 stars. I received a copy of this book via NetGalley for review.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Chance

    It's rare that I don't finish a book, but I just couldn't push myself to do so with this novel. It wasn't because of the writing - Morag Joss does a credible job with her storytelling. It was the characters that I just couldn't sympathize with - A nagging, clinging mother who is so obsessed with trying to get her self-centered adult son home that she ignores her stroke-disabled husband who just longs for a little attention from his wife. I just wanted to shake some sense into her! So, when you t It's rare that I don't finish a book, but I just couldn't push myself to do so with this novel. It wasn't because of the writing - Morag Joss does a credible job with her storytelling. It was the characters that I just couldn't sympathize with - A nagging, clinging mother who is so obsessed with trying to get her self-centered adult son home that she ignores her stroke-disabled husband who just longs for a little attention from his wife. I just wanted to shake some sense into her! So, when you think about it, the author did manage to evoke some pretty strong emotions with her work, or at least she did in me. I just wish it had been a more relatable story. If intense and stressful family relationships are of interest to you, then this book might peak your interest. Just didn't do it for me.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I really liked it...story a bit improbable...woman conjures up her imaginary son who died at birth 28 years ago. i liked the description of the farm/home where they lived, their lifestyle and beliefs...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Melissa (LifeFullyBooked)

    I'm not sure how people have classified this as a mystery, because while it has a gothic type feel, it's not a mystery by the ways I define it. It's definitely an intriguing book with a good storyline. More of a domestic suspense if anything. I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy. I'm not sure how people have classified this as a mystery, because while it has a gothic type feel, it's not a mystery by the ways I define it. It's definitely an intriguing book with a good storyline. More of a domestic suspense if anything. I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy.

  13. 5 out of 5

    William

    Audio The writing and narration was good. The story just wasn't worth the depressing thoughts that the reader WILL experience. Audio The writing and narration was good. The story just wasn't worth the depressing thoughts that the reader WILL experience.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    Deborah and Howard are living on the bleak moors of Exmoor desperately striving to hold on to Stoneyridge - their smallholding where the land is unforgiving and all their good intentions seem to come to nothing. When Howard has a stroke, his wife, herself not very strong and recovering from an injury, is compelled to look after him on her own. There is no money, the van is unreliable, their crops are not producing, their animals are more a liability than a benefit and their landlord is trying to Deborah and Howard are living on the bleak moors of Exmoor desperately striving to hold on to Stoneyridge - their smallholding where the land is unforgiving and all their good intentions seem to come to nothing. When Howard has a stroke, his wife, herself not very strong and recovering from an injury, is compelled to look after him on her own. There is no money, the van is unreliable, their crops are not producing, their animals are more a liability than a benefit and their landlord is trying to bully them off the land. Deborah’s only glimmer of happiness during a week filled with managing her demanding husband, who is still capable of being a bully even though he is unable to speak, is the weekly brief email that comes from their son who lives overseas. Through these emails Adam appears to be a thoughtless and uncaring young man who dismisses out of hand his mother’s desperate need to see him. One stormy night, Deborah is expecting Adam to arrive, but two men appear asking for a room. This night changes everything. It is the turning point for Deborah. But it is hard for the reader to determine whether this is a change for the better or the worse. Morag Joss has written a tense and complex story with an air of desperation which captivates and enthrals. Deborah is a fascinating character who although seemingly driven by those around her for her entire life, has the ability to surprise the reader in the haunting conclusion.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alison C

    In Our Picnics in the Sun: A Novel, by Morag Joss, we meet Howard and Deborah, who 30 years ago fell in love, married and moved into a tenancy in a small-holding in the country, enthused by the idea of "going back to the land" and supporting themselves with their own farm labour, along with pottery and a few B&B bookings for some extra cash. When Howard suffers a stroke, however, all the work of caring for him in addition to the work on the land falls on Deborah, whose only means of coping is to In Our Picnics in the Sun: A Novel, by Morag Joss, we meet Howard and Deborah, who 30 years ago fell in love, married and moved into a tenancy in a small-holding in the country, enthused by the idea of "going back to the land" and supporting themselves with their own farm labour, along with pottery and a few B&B bookings for some extra cash. When Howard suffers a stroke, however, all the work of caring for him in addition to the work on the land falls on Deborah, whose only means of coping is to visit the town library once a week to send to and receive emails from the couple's adult son, Adam, a successful businessman who somehow seems never to have the time to get back home to England. Not even for his birthday, as Deborah learns to her chagrin; just as she has reluctantly taken in a couple of guests for the B&B, she learns that Adam will not be coming home for his 28th birthday, which sends her into another tailspin.... I have to say that while I've liked some of Joss's previous novels, I just couldn't stomach this one. I couldn't stand any one of the characters, the circumstances are very unpleasant and the story, well, to be honest I can't say much about the story because the point to which I've just described the book is the point at which I abandoned it, having read only about 25% of the novel. It was just too depressing for me.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Daisy

    Such deep, flawed, sinister, broken, sorry, interesting characters. Morag Joss is a master. This is the fourth book of hers that I've read. I'll probably end up reading them all. The only reason for 4 vs 5 stars is the ending with the (view spoiler)[dead baby (hide spoiler)] which I probably should have figured out earlier. Oooh, this is so good. Such deep, flawed, sinister, broken, sorry, interesting characters. Morag Joss is a master. This is the fourth book of hers that I've read. I'll probably end up reading them all. The only reason for 4 vs 5 stars is the ending with the (view spoiler)[dead baby (hide spoiler)] which I probably should have figured out earlier. Oooh, this is so good.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Bookish Enchantment (Katherine Quirke)

    This is really a story when strict idealism is not always right. This book made me angry and sad. A well written story that has an obvious ending however, what led to the ending is possibly a lesson to some. This book was very visual and I love that in a book. For me this book was unexpected and in a nice way. A topic that is very rarely covered in fiction writing.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Deb

    When I went to the movie "Ordinary People", I came out of the theater desperately afraid that I would become Mary Tyler Moore's mother character. As I read this book, I was desperately afraid that I am Deborah. The book is that good at reaching inside and describing characters. Amazingly written. And no, I'm not Deborah. But there are parts of me ... Scary. When I went to the movie "Ordinary People", I came out of the theater desperately afraid that I would become Mary Tyler Moore's mother character. As I read this book, I was desperately afraid that I am Deborah. The book is that good at reaching inside and describing characters. Amazingly written. And no, I'm not Deborah. But there are parts of me ... Scary.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Margreet Heer

    Another great novel by Morag Joss. I love how she plays with perspectives, constantly leading the sympathy of the reader this way or another wo see it reversed in the next chapter. Nothing is what it seems. I started out disliking the characters: Howard's misguided overbearance, Deborah's disconnected routines, Adam's cruel absence... But in the end there's only understanding and compassion. Another great novel by Morag Joss. I love how she plays with perspectives, constantly leading the sympathy of the reader this way or another wo see it reversed in the next chapter. Nothing is what it seems. I started out disliking the characters: Howard's misguided overbearance, Deborah's disconnected routines, Adam's cruel absence... But in the end there's only understanding and compassion.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    This was another pick by my 3-year-old and he totally hit this one out of the park. I would identify this as an exploration of regret and family resentment. While that sounds unappealing, this was so well written and fascinating. Loved it!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Helene

    Well written with many thoughtful descriptions. An excellent portrayal of a marriage and life in an isolated location. A kind of thriller that keeps one in suspense.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Deborah

    This was a very melancholic story about an middle-age couple living on the moors and trying to eke out a life running a B&B with hippie-like intentions. The husband was a bit brutish, the wife a tad meek and conforming to his wishes, and their son had a traumatic upbringing always being on this side of having money and parties and gifts. It took place with these three viewpoints (the son is now an adult living elsewhere and a bit absent from their lives) throughout the story delving back into th This was a very melancholic story about an middle-age couple living on the moors and trying to eke out a life running a B&B with hippie-like intentions. The husband was a bit brutish, the wife a tad meek and conforming to his wishes, and their son had a traumatic upbringing always being on this side of having money and parties and gifts. It took place with these three viewpoints (the son is now an adult living elsewhere and a bit absent from their lives) throughout the story delving back into their history.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Stoudt

    Very interesting story about living life the way we do, the choices we make, based on our misconceptions, fears, hurts - just life. Sometimes joyous, sometimes sad. I did have a few questions in the end but don't want to spoil for anyone else. Very interesting story about living life the way we do, the choices we make, based on our misconceptions, fears, hurts - just life. Sometimes joyous, sometimes sad. I did have a few questions in the end but don't want to spoil for anyone else.

  24. 4 out of 5

    June Wesbury

    Hardly a Picnic! An incredible read......not for the young. Beautifully written. What was the author's exposure to the subject? Seemed like it was non fiction! Hardly a Picnic! An incredible read......not for the young. Beautifully written. What was the author's exposure to the subject? Seemed like it was non fiction!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Paula

    Well written and compelling, however if you're not in the mood or able to take on a sad read at this time, this novel's not for you. Well written and compelling, however if you're not in the mood or able to take on a sad read at this time, this novel's not for you.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Scott Southard

    I reviewed this for WKAR's radio show Current State. You can hear the review here: http://wkar.org/post/book-review-mora... If you would rather read my review, you can do so below. - We live in a loud world. Our movies are loud. Our TV shows are loud, and the commercials are even louder. And sadly now, even our books are loud, filled with as many explosions and gunshots as any blockbuster film could ever hope to have. So in a bombastic world like ours, how does a quiet book like Our Picnics in the I reviewed this for WKAR's radio show Current State. You can hear the review here: http://wkar.org/post/book-review-mora... If you would rather read my review, you can do so below. - We live in a loud world. Our movies are loud. Our TV shows are loud, and the commercials are even louder. And sadly now, even our books are loud, filled with as many explosions and gunshots as any blockbuster film could ever hope to have. So in a bombastic world like ours, how does a quiet book like Our Picnics in the Sun by Morag Joss find publication? Our Picnics in the Sun doesn’t star spies or vampires or wizards. There aren’t even any traditional villains as far as the eye can see. No, this novel stars an old married couple dealing with the difficulty of just living. Their names are even common. Howard and Deborah live in a small farmhouse and bed-and-breakfast on the moors of England. A land rich in fog and sorrow. They moved there many years ago, seeking a hippie-like natural lifestyle that was just not really feasible for them. This book captured me right from the very first paragraph. Whenever a book arrives for review I always like to scan the first few sentences, just to get a small taste of what I’ll be getting into once I’m ready to start reading. Usually, I can return to whatever I am reading after that, but not with this book. No, no, not here. This book gripped me from the first paragraph and I read the first eleven pages standing in the middle of my kitchen. I’m not sure I even took a breath. Howard, while doing his yoga, experiences a stroke and we follow him as he fights to try and work out what is happening and then has to decide whether he is going to fight to move to find help or give in. It’s disturbing, powerful, and the prose through this moment is spectacular and tragically beautiful. These first few pages alone make it worthy in my opinion for a purchase. Luckily, the rest of the book is just as well-written. The book follows the couple after this life-changing stroke, with Deborah absorbing the time-consuming tasks of running their farmhouse and bed-and-breakfast, as well as now taking care of her invalid husband. She never gets a break. It is a lonely existence, and you see her world falling down around her. There is no possibility of change or happiness for someone like Deborah, especially after their son Adam decides once again not to visit them. Then, one day a strange man in his twenties arrives named Theo. It is with Theo’s introduction that the book’s tone seems to take on an eerie air. There is something not right here, and you wish there was someone, anyone that could step in before these characters continue down this path. One of the things I loved about this book is that it’s obvious that Morag Joss has a great love of literature, for you see the past’s influence on this contemporary work. A favorite example is the romanticism of the environment around this little farmhouse, since it says more than the characters ever do about foreboding doom and endings. Yes, this book shares the same attributes that you would find haunting the worlds of the Brontes or the landscapes of Hardy. This novel also embraces what makes reading such a unique storytelling medium, for with Joss’s skillful writing, we can get into the heads of each of the characters. No, the world doesn’t lie in jeopardy like in other books, and by all accounts, the sun will rise the next day no matter what happens to Howard, Deborah, Adam and Theo in these pages. Yet, Our Picnics in the Sun is unlike any other book you will probably pick up this year. And its power lies in the written word, so waiting for the TV or film adaptation won’t give you the same experience. Not even close. See, there is beauty and importance in even the quietest of stories.

  27. 5 out of 5

    kathyrn

    The Five Star Story of a Frumpy Weary Middle Aged Wife and Her Worn Weary Old Husband This book starts out in 2008 and Howard Morgan is in a pig shed where he has a stroke while doing yoga. Then it goes to 2011 when he still has not fully recovered from the stroke and his wife Deborah has to take care of him and their farm and bed and breakfast. Deborah met her husband met in 1979 when she was 18 and he taught her art history class. He told her all his life he was searching for an object to love a The Five Star Story of a Frumpy Weary Middle Aged Wife and Her Worn Weary Old Husband This book starts out in 2008 and Howard Morgan is in a pig shed where he has a stroke while doing yoga. Then it goes to 2011 when he still has not fully recovered from the stroke and his wife Deborah has to take care of him and their farm and bed and breakfast. Deborah met her husband met in 1979 when she was 18 and he taught her art history class. He told her all his life he was searching for an object to love and then he found her and they were married. Howard's age is never given Deborah only says that their age difference was great so I take it to be about 20 years and I think it fits the story. He gets a small inheritance and they rent a farm and Deborah is too young to worried about not being able to buy it. Howard wants to live modestly, naturally, and responsible and Deborah is happy to go along. They are not really out to make a lot of money. They get a deep discount on the rent for farming. They have sheep and chickens and raise vegetables . He does pottery in brown and makes things that aren't vases but not bowls either. She does weaving and her fabrics are loose and saggy and also brown with nubs like rabbit scat. Nothing they do is any good. If you ever saw them at a farmer's market their zucchini would be 2 for a dollar and be the worst ones there while everyone else's would be 3 for a dollar. They don't understand why no one wants to pay the prices they charge for their goods and services so they are always broke. To paraphrase from the book because someone is industrious does not mean they have talent. It's not easy for their son Adam to live like this but he is able to go to school and get a good job in London. He is coming home for his 28th birthday and Deborah is making big plans for the annual birthday picnic. But a couple comes to rent a bed and breakfast room and this upsets her-- she doesn't want to rent any rooms. They haven't had any customers in ages but the couple insists because the sign is still up and yes she charges them 20 pounds over the regular rate with probably a 50 percent increase in their regular bad service. And this is the breaking point that causes everything to change. Things they never talked about when they happened are remembered. When I was about two thirds through the book I made the mistake of reading a thank you at the end of the book and this give me a clue as to what was happening and while it didn't spoil the book for me I would advise not to do it This is beautifully written book compelling right from the start. The author's descriptions are just perfect. I never heard of the author but brought it home from the library based on the title and cover. The chapters are written from his view , her view and emails back and forth from her and her son Adam. I think it would be perfect for book clubs and it does have a reader's guide. I also think this book deserves a lot more attention to let people know it's out there. .

  28. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    Our Picnics in the Sun is a quiet, deeply introspective book, one which, for the first half, creates the impression that it is little more than a slice of life tale. The focus is the life that Howard and Deborah Morgan have tried, quite unsuccessfully, to build for themselves by living in tune with nature in a tumbledown cottage on Exmoor, aptly called Stoneyridge. Their son Adam, now grown, rejected his parents’ philosophies, and decamped as soon as possible for a job that could provide him wit Our Picnics in the Sun is a quiet, deeply introspective book, one which, for the first half, creates the impression that it is little more than a slice of life tale. The focus is the life that Howard and Deborah Morgan have tried, quite unsuccessfully, to build for themselves by living in tune with nature in a tumbledown cottage on Exmoor, aptly called Stoneyridge. Their son Adam, now grown, rejected his parents’ philosophies, and decamped as soon as possible for a job that could provide him with all that was missing from his childhood. A picture of this family’s strained relationship is related alternately by husband, wife, and son. Howard emerges as a virtual dictator with iron clad ideals, and Deborah as his often unwilling minion. They are as poor now as when they so hopefully set off on their life together so many years ago. Then, while practicing yoga in the pig shed, Howard suffers a stroke. He survives, and Deborah is left to care for him alone. While this gives her somewhat more autonomy, the couple is more poverty stricken than ever, and she can’t possible manage the house, chickens and sheep along with her patient, who can speak only with halting difficulty. From this point forward, the novel turn from prosaic to masterful. The depiction of Deborah’s struggles as caretaker is brilliant, restrained yet so vivid that the reader can feel what she’s feeling. When Adam fails to return home for a long awaited birthday celebration, her anguish is palpable. This may be one of the most effective evocation of loneliness ever written. Rescue comes in the form of a visitor, a young man by the name of Theo, whose neediness is immediately evident to Deborah and provides an outlet for her frustrated maternal urges. As the second half unfolds, there is a growing sense of isolation and a vague sort of menace. The moors, upon which the eponymous picnics took place, are a splendid metaphor for the reality of the Morgans’ existence. Suspense builds, although there are no overt threats of any kind. But Deborah, encouraged by Theo, begins to question all the choices she has made. The memories that she recounts are striking, especially the one she most painfully regrets. Perhaps the novel’s conclusion shouldn’t be so startling, but I never saw it coming. Its darker overtones notwithstanding, Our Picnics in the Sun is lovely and memorable, lyrical in many places and dramatic. It will linger in my mind for a long time.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jan Mcclung-short

    I really don't know what to think. This book just kept me reading, thinking, "Oh my God, it could be me." I unfortuantly could see me being angry at having to care for someone , carry on with the lifestyle best you can, and end up being very angry...at my spouse, me, the kids, God, and the world. This is the life that Deborah and Howard Morgan end up living after Howard is downed by a stroke. They tried to live the free love lifestyle of the conmunes of the early 60's. Unfortuantly, the rest of I really don't know what to think. This book just kept me reading, thinking, "Oh my God, it could be me." I unfortuantly could see me being angry at having to care for someone , carry on with the lifestyle best you can, and end up being very angry...at my spouse, me, the kids, God, and the world. This is the life that Deborah and Howard Morgan end up living after Howard is downed by a stroke. They tried to live the free love lifestyle of the conmunes of the early 60's. Unfortuantly, the rest of the world gave it up and grew up to be part of the establishment....and Deborah and Howard didn't. Adam, their son, doesn't really like or enjoy his parents, and finds it difficult to bring himself home. Deborah continues to care, if that what you call it, for Howard, wishing for her son to come home, until she falls and hurts herself and being in the cold too long gives her the flu. Life changes after the flu and this couple begin to see life for what it is....What they have accompolished and what they have failed at. The ending is so hard to understand, but it makes sense. I am disturbed by this book, but I believe that we should be. It is meant to shock us and wake us up. How do we treat the elderly in this nation compared to others. Are we dedicated to our parents and grandparents? Do we just ramble when we see them on the obligated holidays? I'm rethinking my attitudes.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    This book was chosen for my book club, not one I had heard of before. I think the author did a very good job of portraying one's slow decline into delusion (from isolation? depression?). It's not a book I would necessarily recommend highly, but would not dismiss entirely, either. I found it interesting, though slow...although the pace did fit with the surrounds. Deborah and her husband Howard lived on their"farm" as tenants on the moors in England, trying to keep it solvent. They struck me as hi This book was chosen for my book club, not one I had heard of before. I think the author did a very good job of portraying one's slow decline into delusion (from isolation? depression?). It's not a book I would necessarily recommend highly, but would not dismiss entirely, either. I found it interesting, though slow...although the pace did fit with the surrounds. Deborah and her husband Howard lived on their"farm" as tenants on the moors in England, trying to keep it solvent. They struck me as hippies, a couple who wanted to get back to the land, so gave up career and moved to a ramshackle house as young married dreamers. They raised their son, albeit according to their somewhat extreme beliefs. Howard suffered a stroke and the slow decline down the abyss began for Deborah as she tried to maintain the homestead and relationship with their adult and absent son.

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