"...the iron ghosts of winters past sent clanking and blowing round the small, log-warmed bar."
"He belonged in that cupboard in the imagination of a man where the wooden swords, catapults and bent pins for fish hooks are stashed still ..."
'... I think Under the Apple Boughs should be required reading in every high school to introduce them to the finest in lyrical writing ... He sees with an inner eye what we cannot, and points it out with such delight, making you a witness to the glorious in the commonplace ... You know you have found genius when you find yourself reading it over and over.'
'For me, the touchstone comparison is Dylan Thomas’s elegiac A Child’s Christmas in Wales ... '
'Maughan truly typifies the Welsh meaning of the word Druid: seer. He sees, describes and enables us to see the magic too ...'
'Beautiful and often touching glimpses of life from the pen and the genius that is Peter Maughan.'
'A pastoral symphony ... Lyrical, descriptive, haunting at times, always beautiful. It's a religious experience reading Under the Apple Boughs, leaving one awed and blessed.'
Henrietta Bellows LaLa, (St Martinville, LA), USA, Amazon review.
'A song of seasons, a Medieval illuminated Book of Hours ... For me, the touchstone comparison is Dylan Thomas’s elegiac A Child’s Christmas in Wales, although Thomas’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog has a similar focus … But there are other names cited. Maughan specifically dedicates this book “to the memory of Laurie Lee”, Kenneth Grahame (who famously wrote The Wind in the Willows, but wrote other books of stories and essays that sing of the same loved countryside), T.H. White, Henry Williamson, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, D.H. Lawrence, George Borrow, W.H. Hudson, Richard Jefferies, Maughan writes among hallowed company …'
Dr John Gough (Australia), Amazon review.
'... Peter Maughan paints literary landscapes with a Turner palette, all shimmery light, plays of shadows, chiaroscuro and startling detail.'
Angelica Bentley, (France), A Maze of Reviews blog. Top 500 Amazon reviewer.
'... Beautiful and often touching glimpses of life from the pen and the genius that is Peter Maughan.'
Ray Nicholson, CA, Top 1000 Amazon reviewer.
'... To experience the forces and beauty of nature such as Peter Maughan describes as he leads us along his journey through the seasons is like watching a maestro wave his baton and waiting for the magical notes to permeate the senses on the first down stroke ... And as I have said before of his lyrical prose, read it to those who cannot as yet read, and I will add now to read it to the elderly, for its music will give solace and comfort.'
JoyMarie, Lover of the Written Word, USA, Amazon review.
' ... Peter Maughan, a man for all seasons, a man whose works will endear him to the ages. All his writings are classics and have earned a place in world-wide libraries. They will never be old or outdated ... just enjoyed and very loved ... every word ... every nuance. Peter Maughan is a gift you give yourself and a gift for those you love.'
Joymarie, Lover of the Written Word, USA.
'... reminiscent of an old painting or ageing photograph that somehow has magically come to life for a few precious moments ... before returning to still life or crumbling to dust. Beautiful and often touching glimpses of life from the pen and the genius that is Peter Maughan.'
Ray Nicholson, CA, Top 1000 Reviewer.
A Year's Beginning
(Under the Apple Boughs)
All night the vixen had screamed down the burning fields of frost, under a sky chiming with January stars, running under a moon and the wild white hair of trees. The barking of a dog fox led on and on across the valley in search of her, until their clamour died in the hot-throated distance and the pulse of the morning star dimmed like a weakening signal over the land.
The moon was full and sitting above the tall pines now, above the road that falls into the valley, its ringing light striking the blue frost-bright slate of the village, echoing down the headlong High Street, fading away into silences where the shadows had drifted, piled like soot.
The village crossed the border of two counties, high on a valley side, arranged as if by a child's hand around shop, church and pub. Only the light from the telephone box burned in the lampless High Street, shining with a busy toy redness outside the post office and shop.
From clear across the valley, a farm dog barked into the no-man's-land between night and morning, and a tawny owl glided across the village, its flight as silence and as remote as a dream.
Fluttering for a hold on top of a telegraph pole, it folded its wings, its blunt head moving in sweeps as it searched for small scurries of movement from shadow to shadow below, and finding none sang about it, the long-drawn, quavering notes sounding under the moon like a ghost story told to a child.
From the terrace of farm cottages in the High Street, a baby howled damply at the world, and a light came on in a bedroom, as the owl beat its way down through the village to the wood below, its swift, sharp call in flight a fingernail drawn across the frosted glass of dawn.
Other lights shone in the village now. In the post office and the shop where newspapers, hot from the London train, were sorted for the bin outside. In the kitchen of George Perry, coal merchant, waiting for the weather forecast and hoping for the worst. In the bedroom of Miss Holsworth, village spinster, dressing to the frivolous notes of a horn concerto on Radio 3. And in the farmhouse at the top of the High Street, where breakfast steamed the windows, and the lights went on in the milking shed. Udders swinging, the hunched shadows of the cattle were herded from the stalls, the cobbles of the yard brittle with silver under the moon, the dung-heavy smell almost as warm as breath.
Bales of last season's hay in the Dutch barn were tossed down onto a trailer for the stock in the fields, sweetening the air briefly with the scent of an impossibly remote summer. The tractor headlights swept across the yards, petrifying a returning barn-hunting cat, and turning into the High Street, rode off the hill into the quenching dark of the valley.
Battered and cooling, the moon settled above the Norman tower of the church, the black and gold clock fingered with elegant shadows, a smell like damp burnt paper on the raw air as the first fires of the morning were lit. And from the farm in the High Street a cockcrow flared with sudden petulance, as if in protest at the cold and grudging dawn, its light spreading above the hills in the east like a stain.
Dug in across the farmlands the creatures of the day felt its tug, but in the weather that had sent the owl home early slept on as if waiting for spring. Rooks in the grounds of what was once the squire's house, stirred, moving in the tops of the horse chestnuts, preening and bickering. And in the wood below the village, pheasants scratched, squawking, for food, raucous with complaint at the ungiving earth, and pigeons broke through the trees with a clatter of wings, and turned blindly towards the fields.
Like the slow unclenching of a fist, the dawn gave up more light. A hard, clay-heavy light, worked into the sky as if with a palette knife. And birds sang, stray thin winter notes as the last of the night broke up over the valley, and the light above the hills gathered into a new day.