We have gathered all the fantastic reviews our Book Club Members have sent us this month.

Click on each name to read the review. If you would like to become part of the Viking Book Club, sign up sign up here >>


Catherine Howarth

I was very pleased to receive my first book to review for the Viking Book Club, however I was a little disappointed as I had never taken to the original TV series finding the characters irritating and difficult to identify with, so had not watched it. But as this novel is considered a classic, I put prejudices aside and set about reading it. I must admit at first I still found the over-use of "perfick" incredibly annoying and the way Pop rode rough-shod over other people's feelings and opinions and his disregard for the law, difficult to take, but the more I read I did start to warm to the characters. I usually enjoy novels set within an historical time period or another country as a way of learning more about that era or place, so I tried to enjoy this novel as a picture of a part of England with which I am not familiar (Kent) during a period I am too young to remember (the 1950s). If you are looking for a short (it is only 137 pages) light-hearted, feel-good novel as an escape from all the stresses of today's world, this may be what you are looking for.

Jacqui Jackson

It's like falling into a soft romantic dream of summertime. It is warm, it is light and everything is fun and happy. The main protagonist (Mr. Larkin) has a worrying habit of kissing women (very uncool today) but an abundance of money and food. Nobody ever says a cross or negative word. The daughter is pregnant - so what? Her parents are not worried, she's not worried, they soon find a likely chap to fix on and the problem goes away. How delightful! Back in the real world, we would not accept this view of life for a moment. This book was written post-war, in the 1950s or so when money and food were very scarce. The idea of unlimited food (mentions of food occur very often as they do in Enid Blyton books of the same era) and money to achieve one's dreams must have been very welcome at that time. Nowadays we know that most farmers work hard and are not that well off, that big families means lots of very hungry children and that single unwed mothers are ostracised in some communities. But I enjoyed its pervasive happy feeling. It was an English fairytale.

Christine Hughes

Did not finish to the end. It did not keep my interest from the start. It is not one of those books you do not want to put down. Not my ideal book to read.

Joyce James

I am sorry to say that I didn't enjoy reading this book.

Richard Downs

The book takes us back to a gentler age, the 1950s and wraps us in a bucolic dream, where Pop and Ma preside absent- mindedly over their progeny of six children. However, in a twist possibly unusual for the time, one of them is unmarried and pregnant at seventeen. The book is peopled by stereotypes and there isn’t much attempt at developing any of the minor characters as the action mainly concerns itself with how scrap dealer Pop will buck the system, hoodwink the visiting Tax Inspector and get him to pair off with the errant daughter. Written as it was in the aftermath of the Second World War, the book overloads on descriptions of food, in amounts impossible to consume even today and its frequent descriptions of female appearance and its anarchic attitudes towards sex must have raised eyebrows at the time and contributed to the book’s popularity, spawning as it did, four more follow up books about the family. It reminded me of Kingsley Amis. Give it a go, it could just cheer you up at the moment.

Fiona Fletcher

What a joy to read this book after so many years, and an easy to read just in one day. The book transports you back to a very simple life that many of us can remember, you are there with it. I was tasting and smelling the strawberries. How I loved strawberry picking in my teens in the meadow at sunset listening to the nightingale sing. It is so full of detail, wonderful meals with all the family, nothing is too much trouble for the Larkins. However, there is the problem of the tax return! which of course further books will tell. I would love to be in that family, what a laugh it would be. It is definitely worth reading again just to remind us what a "perfick" world we have.

Judith Dickinson

I have not watched the TV series so was able to imagine these characters as described in the narrative. Their appearances and speech patterns drew me into their world as they saw it and lived it. They were all so distinctive that I felt I was there with them every step of the way. Much of the storyline was family based and very easy to follow. There are little niggles, the humour and day-to-day lifestyles. Then there were the outside elements. The arrival of Mr Charlton the tax inspector sets things in a different motion. As I reader I was gripped, I had to read to the very end. If you have seen the series, I am sure that the Bates' narrative will ensnare you. You will see and hear those beloved characters from those TV moments and not be in the least disappointed. After all this is where they all began. I encourage all to dive into this book, smiles are guaranteed!

Elizabeth Dodds

I was delighted to receive this book to read as I’ve never read it before. Once started, it didn’t take long to finish it, the idea of hot summers in the sixties about a family that succeeds in living the 'good life' without an apparent care in the world is very appealing. But dig deeper and you realise Pop and Ma are more cunning than you think, their attempts to trick Charley and side-track him into love with the 'supposed pregnant' Mariette show that they do care how others see them. If it wasn’t for the fact that both characters eventually show their caring side towards others outside the family, they would come across as very shallow. It’s difficult not to fall in love with the idyllic way of life and the loveable rogues they all are, especially when you have David Jason and Bradley Walsh in your imagination - I’m not sure that I would like the characters without this. You can’t help but fall in love with a family with extremely strong bonds- with parents who will do anything for their children. To eventually discover that they aren’t even married, having stayed together despite the mores of the early sixties shows strength of character which I’m sure is tested in the later books. Perhaps the life H.E Bates wanted to portray was an idyll, but I do wonder how they would have fared if they didn’t have the successful wheeling and dealing of Pop and the unconditional love of Ma to keep them going as most ‘tax dodgers’ today would be seen as scrounges. All in all, an enjoyable read, such that I’m considering purchasing the later books to discover exactly how they get on before I’m too influenced by the new series on TV, The Larkins.

Roy Hubbard

I read many of H. E. Bates’ books in my teens, and later in life lived in Sharnbrook where Uncle Silas is buried, and then in Rushden where he was born. He is a great storyteller, and his characters are so well drawn they spring to life from the page. The Larkins live in a "perfick" rural paradise where the sun always shines, unless rain is needed for the fruit crop, none of that fruit is forbidden, and the nightingales always sing. The only serpent in this garden of Eden is the tax inspector, and he becomes one of the family, falling head over heels for the lovely young Mariette, the Larkins eldest daughter. Pop Larkin is not exactly PC by modern standards, but is a lovable rogue, a rural wheeler dealer, and Ma is as plump and generous as the meals she cooks for the family and for any casual visitor. I do not think that-the happy chaotic Larkins would be ideal near neighbours but in Mr Bates’ little book they are ideal holiday companions. To let Pa have the last word: "perfick’".

Roger Dowell

The book encompasses an era long gone of more simple happy times when the world was recovering from the war. Beautifully atmospheric and enchanting this book reminds me of my childhood and days spent strawberry picking in Essex. An easy read. 8/10.

Mike Day

This novella gives a charming picture of rural life in post-war Britain, by following the daily life of the Larkin family. The family, Pa, Ma and their six children are followed through various escapades. Pa could be best described as a 'wheeler dealer' whose manipulation of those around him is both devious and amusing. Although a scoundrel at heart, the ways that Pa handles a visiting taxman and various village dignitaries, make it difficult not to warm to him. His wife, Ma, supports and enhances him, whist eldest daughter, Mariette clearly follows in their footsteps in her dealing with her teenage peers of both sexes. It should encourage readers to seek out the further adventures of the Larkins in later books about the family.