It must have been some time in the 70’s when either my mum or I found a novel called ‘Apple Tree Lean Down’ – it had such an intriguing title but it’s author Mary E. Pearce was unknown to us. We both read it, loved it, leant and recommended it to friends, and then read the subsequent books published by Ms Pearce in the Apple Tree series. The other books were Jack Mercybright, The Sorrowing Wind and The Land Endures.

I don’t think I have read them since, but so many scenes remain vivid in my mind… and I haven’t used them at all, certainly not, but the ideas and the language has inspires me…

  • The miller trapped up to his waist in a cellar full of water, and only his young son knows he is there… however the boy has been told by his father to tell no-one where he is… the man survives by eating slugs (eugh!!) and when he is eventually rescued forever blames his son
  • The poor parent-less boy, supposed ‘simple’ who has to spend all day in the field, throwing stones at the birds, a living scarecrow – and the young farmer’s girl who feels sorry for him
  • The man who through various circumstances, is reduced to working as a labourer for an old farmer, digging and clearing ditches, getting rid of brambles and docks, and gradually brings barren fields into use

I must re-read these delightful and powerful stories… but who wrote them? Mary Emily Pearce was born in 1932 and died at the age of 74. She first worked in the Boots library – yes Boots the chemist’s used to have a library in their shops – my aunty used to spend her lunchtimes there, reading the books! Mary Pearce moved to Truro (still working in Boots’ library) and this is where she began to write. She moved again, this time to  Malvern, and in 1974 published Apple Tree Lean Down.

As well as the Apple Tree quartet, she wrote six other novels. She seems to have been a very private person, and now, unfortunately she seems to have vanished from popular  reading lists. If you do get the chance, do get copies – please let me know what you think! Maybe I won’t enjoy them as much as I reread them – sometimes that happens, but maybe the magic is still there!

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