The war had a profound effect on Kaye-Smith, as with many of her generation. Looking back with hindsight in 1937, she notes that she had never felt such “fundamental relief than that which came to me when the bells rang out on the signing of the Armistice. The world seemed to have begun again” (TWH 124-125). For her, the overwhelming intrusion of the war into daily life had been like having “a picnic on the edge of an abyss” (TWH 125). The novels Kaye-Smith had written during the War had brought her professional success with complimentary reviews in several publications, and her private life was happier than it had been for a long time, but she maintained this was the very reason why she felt the need to turn back to religion, and why she became an Anglo-Catholic at Christmas 1918.
In Green Apple Harvest the setting acts as a backdrop to the central concern of the novel: the nature of salvation and religious faith. Kaye-Smith utilises images of the natural world, most notably light and water, as well as descriptions of the countryside, as evidence in her development of a religious philosophy that links humanity, nature and God. Through her central character, Bob Fuller, Kaye-Smith presents the uncertainties of the immediate post-war society that, haunted by the frailty of life, lived for the moment but was searching for something to believe in, and for a meaning to life. Katherine Mansfield noted in her review for The Athenaeum that “It is a novel divided against itself, written with two hands – one is the country hand, scoring the dialect, and the other is the town hand, hovering over the wild flowers” (Mansfield 252). This comment highlights the bifurcated nature of Green Apple Harvest as Kaye-Smith attempts to present a rural regional narrative that tries to wed reality with lyrical descriptions of nature while preaching a particular religious polemic. These elements of division and disorder in the novel make for a muddled narrative. These confusions in the story reflect the difficulty of post-war society’s efforts to come to terms with the disorientation, uncertainty, and changes that were to be part of the 1920s. Green Apple Harvest is set in the present and follows the life of Bob Fuller, the son of a Sussex Methodist farmer, on his redemptive journey to salvation. Bob is something of a rebel and is easily led astray by women, alcohol and the persuasive words of others. In his search for a sense of identity he becomes infatuated by a gypsy girl, Hannah Iden, and when rejected by her, he turns to drink and gambling. In an effort to redeem himself he undergoes a number of conversions to faith which he later regrets when they prove false and unsatisfactory. Similarly, his marriage to a town girl is doomed to failure, primarily because the couple are incompatible, and Bob feels a compulsion to continue his search for a meaningful religious creed. This persistent quest for salvation leads Bob to become an itinerant preacher, and he is eventually fatally injured by villagers who duck him in a pond for what they believe is his hypocrisy. The characterisation of Bob Fuller as a passionate, fervid, fanatic in matters of love and religion is set in opposition to the characterisation of his brother Clem. Unlike Bob, Clem is depicted as a steady, simple and charming country boy/man. He falls in love and marries Polly, a straightforward country girl, who is used as the voice of wisdom and common sense. Clem and Polly are satisfied with a life that is uncomplicated and stable and they have no sympathy with any organised or proselytising faith. Their world is one in which “everything lovely and homely” (GAH 15) and meaningful is to be found in the natural world around them.
Kaye-Smith gradually builds the justification for her eventual assertion, that the bond between God, the natural world, and humanity is not “pantheism or nature worship; it is Catholicism – God in all things . . . It is the ground of the sacramental system, through which by the operation of the Holy Ghost nature gives birth to that which the whole world cannot contain” (TWH 139). To prove this proposition Bob must undertake a spiritual journey in which he frequently strays from the path of acceptable conduct, and in which he must learn, by experience, that salvation must come from within. His first attempt at achieving salvation leaves him disappointed as he feels “no more saäved [sic] than a potato-trug” (GAH 19).
Kaye-Smith contrasts the severe doctrine of Calvinism with her own interpretation of Catholic Anglicanism that is based on the concept of the loving God of the New Testament. To highlight the difference between these two forms of Christianity, Kaye-Smith invests her depiction of a Calvinist Christianity with a terrifying harshness, that uses imagery of a wrathful Old Testament God who condemns those who are not of the Elect, and therefore cannot find redemption, not being predestined for salvation. This hellfire form of faith is illustrated in the person of Mr Beeman, a “Peculiar Baptist” (GAH 146). Beeman persuades Bob that he is “outside the mercies of God” (GAH 150), that “If God sends [him] to hell, it’s because it’s right” (GAH 155), that he is ” in fur the Wrath to Come” (GAH 145), that there is no “sign that he had put on Salvation” or that he has any “token of the Lord’s favour” (GAH 148). Set against this condemnation is the comfort provided by the natural world and a philosophy of a loving God. To illustrate this and accentuate a stark contrast, Kaye-Smith presents the loving God through the first-person narration of Bob as he describes how,
I climbed over into the field, fur I felt mazed and tired, and I laid down on the grass among the dead leaves that had come from the wood . . . All I cud think on wur God, and I thought ‘He’s wonderful. He’s the wonderfullest thing thur is, and if I cud feel I wur Chosen of Him, thur be naun else I’d want beside’. . . . then it all happened. It wur lik a shining, silver light, and it seemed to come all over me, and my heart went light wud peace and gladness, and summat in me seemed to say, ‘I have loved thee wud an everlasting love’ (GAH 164-165).
Initially, under the influence of the Calvinist doctrine of The Chosen, Bob “distrusted a yearning for the beauty of the fields” (GAH 181) believing it to be the work of the devil. The peaceful contentment that can be found for a troubled soul in communion with creation is illustrated in Kaye-Smith’s utilisation of a traditional imagery of heaven as a starlit night sky. When Bob is rejected by those he had chosen to preach to, he finds solace and comfort from a perceived closeness to God. When looking at the night sky it was “as if he could touch it with the swing of his sleepy arm, and rake down the shimmering stars of the Lamb of God into the field beside him. Drowsily content, he turned over” (GAH 201).
Unlike the early pre-war novels, Green Apple Harvest displays a coherent and fully developed religious ideology in which a mystical evocation of the land is given a sacramental significance. In the immediate post-war world, Kaye-Smith suggests stability and a meaning to life can only be found in a spiritual attachment to the countryside. In the narration of Bob’s attempted suicide, the text speaks in a variety of potentially oppositional voices, as Kaye-Smith combines, and juxtaposes, lyrically-idealised descriptions of the countryside with dialectically expressed thoughts, references to Christian theology and biblical imagery. The description of Bob’s eventual revelatory experience that brings him to a true understanding of his unity with God is told by refracting his experience through a combined lexicon of the Christian symbolism, and imagery of water and light. The light of dawn is used as a symbolic metaphor for the spiritual enlightenment that is to come. In an idealised country scene, the gleams of dawn “swept up the fields in a soaring light – the water courses gleamed, the windows of farmhouses burned, the wood seemed to change colour, and the subdued chatter of birds among the trees swelled into a song” (GAH 271). Bob suddenly and unexpectedly recognises that it would be a wrench for him to leave “this quiet country of the Rother Valley, which all his life had been so much to him” (GAH 271). In describing the revelatory experience of God, that leads to Bob discover that “He’s love . . . and He’s beauty . . . He’s in the fields mäaking the flowers grow and the birds sing and the ponds have that lovely liddle white flower growing on ’em” (GAH 275), the text references the most mystical and spiritual of the Gospels, that of St John, as it speaks to the symbolism and imagery of God being love, and Christ as the light of the world.
The imagery of breaking dawn and the advent of sunrise knits together Bob’s memories of the countryside with descriptions of the immediate natural world as he walks towards the pond. In a continuation of the symbolic use of light motifs, Kaye-Smith links a series of light images with remembrance of the past that is centred on the countryside and the illumination of that natural world with “fields tilted to the sunset”, “ponds like moons”, “villages in a twilight thickened and yellowed by the chaffy mist of harvest” and the “glory of big solemn stars” (GAH 272). Each of these images is of muted or reflected light, indicative of Bob’s lack of understanding of the nature of God. As he comes near to the pond, however, the quality of light is more intense, dramatic and immediate and is used to herald the actual presence of the Almighty rather than a manifestation of him in his creation. The intensity of this light is such that the surface of the water “gleamed from the sunrise”, “was lit up and aflame” as the whole scene became part of “the fanning, flooding sunrise” (GAH 272). Kaye-Smith uses language that resonates with biblical allusion, but is also somewhat clichéd, and once Bob had recognised and accepted the loving nature of God, his face “shone in the sunrise”, he was “transfigured and gleaming” (GAH 273) in the light of God’s countenance as it poured from the sky.
The use of water imagery in this section of the text is less intrusive and more subtle. The water images centred on the pond form a symbol that signifies purity, the washing away of sin and initiation into a new life. The prosaic water of the pond is transformed by the reflective light of the sunrise, so that a “yellow light gleamed” from its surface, it appeared to be “aflame” (GAH 272), and the sunrise caught by the water “striking up from the broken ripples of the pond” (GAH 273). In an echo of Christ’s baptism God speaks to Bob with the voice of a Sussex yeoman, to remind him that
I am your God – doan’t you know me? Did you think I was away up in heaven, watching you from a gurt way off? Didn’t you know that I’ve bin with you all the time? – that every time you looked out on the fields or into your kind brother’s eyes or at your baby asleep in his bed you looked on Me? (GAH 273).
Like Graham Greene’s Scobie in The Heart of the Matter who hears God telling him that “I made you with love. I’ve wept your tears. I’ve saved you from more than you will ever know” (Greene 258) the God that speaks to Bob is the loving God of the New Testament, who loves with the unconditional love of a parent. In the fields at sunrise God questions, “‘Why woan’t you look and see how beautiful and homely and faithful and loving I am'” and “‘How could I ever cast you out? I’m plighted to you wud the troth of a mother to her child'” (GAH 273). The presentation of the all-encompassing nature of this loving God comes to dominate the end of the novel. Set in contrast to the ‘conversions’ to faith that had come to Bob through fear, this conversion is presented as genuine and inspired by a realisation that “‘God aun’t shut away from us in heaven, but He’s down here – He’s in the fields wud the young corn and wud the animals caring for their young, and He’s in you and me'” (GAH 276). This direct and individual, unmediated contact between humanity and God, through contact with the natural world, and universally available to all humanity, Kaye-Smith states, “expresses a belief which was fundamental to my religion then, [at the time of writing Green Apple Harvest] as it is to it now” [in 1937 when she had converted to Roman Catholicism] (TWH 139).
Having alluded to Christ’s baptism, Kaye-Smith continues the tangential and tentative referencing of the New Testament in her telling of Bob’s death. Convinced of his own salvation, Bob, like Humphrey Lyte in The Tramping Methodist, feels compelled to preach that “God is love and all things lovely are part of His love” (GAH 284). In a further echo of The Tramping Methodist, the Gospel narrative, and Bob’s experience at the farm pond, the villagers attempt to teach him a lesson by ducking him in the mill pond. The metaphoric imagery utilised in the recounting of his illness and death is that of sunset and fading light. As he grows weaker the sky becomes ‘pale’ and “translucent with a dying sunset”. When he is at the point of death “It was dusk, and the warm mist of May hung in the garden”, the air was “stirless in the grey light” and with his last breath Bob murmurs of the “‘shadders of trees on the road'” (GAH 285). To affirm the belief that true universal Catholicism is available to all, Kaye-Smith presents Bob’s faith as classless, non-judgemental, mystical, concerned with a belief in the supernatural, and has a firm belief in an after-life. For Clem, Bob’s death in May seems “unaccountable hard”. Bob’s response encapsulates the essence of the personal and clearly-developed religious philosophy that the novel sets out to demonstrate. He explains: ” I’ve a feeling as if I go to the Lord God I’ll only be going into the middle of all that’s alive . . . If I’m wud Him I can’t never lose the month of May’ “(GAH 285).
Green Apple Harvest is dominated by Bob’s search for salvation but the text also presents the reader with two strong women, Hannah Iden and Polly Ebony. Hannah Iden, a gypsy girl, is used to lure Bob into a dissolute life. Kaye-Smith establishes her as the villainous character of the novel. Identified as the ‘other’, Hannah belongs to an extended family who are proud of their difference. In the characterisation of Hannah and her family, the narrative utilises the dichotomous trope of Victorian fiction in which gypsies are romantic figures, free to roam unconstrained by the norms of society, while embodying values that subvert those norms of behaviour. As such, Hannah is romantically and sexually attractive to Bob but she acts as a catalyst to create instability in Bob’s relationship with Clem and his family. The villagers view the gypsies as “thieves” and “furriners”, who “poached” and “stole horses and could never be brought to justice” (GAH 28), and who were known to be steeped in the “deeper dye of Egypt” (GAH 51). For Bob her attraction lies in her sexuality and physical allure. He sees her as “lovely . . . her mouth makes my mouth ache . . . she smells of grass . . . and her eyes in the shadder – they mäake me want to drown myself” (GAH 30). In her subversive availability, she represents the immediacy of a readily accessible physical gratification that characterised the post-war desire to live for the moment.
Throughout the novel Hannah is defined by others in terms that equate her with evil intent. Kaye-Smith uses a number of lexical devices to reinforce Hannah’s heinous character. Her appearances in the narrative are associated with the gloominess of dusk, or darkness and with the sharp starkness of the “twigs and spines of the thorny hedges” (GAH 55) in the wet weather of autumn. Like Jerry Sumption in Little England, Hannah is inextricably linked with the cruel wildness of nature. She has “shining dark eyes, more the eyes of an animal than of a human being” (GAH 213), while her beauty is that of “the wild and harsh and lovely earth, or of nature in some petty, savage mood” (GAH 214). On occasion, when with Bob, she behaves like a “wild animal in his arms” (GAH 219). He recognises that “she’s a bitch” (GAH 29), but cannot resist her. Hannah’s intrinsic deceptiveness hides her harsh cruel nature with an appearance of coquettishness and is “like the bitter kernel of a ripe, sweet fruit . . . the hard stone in nature’s heart” (GAH 55). Hannah holds no fascination for Clem, but is a threatening, exotic ‘other’ who in her appearance subverts and destabilises the traditional patterns of rural behaviour to which he subscribes. In a ruralised caricature of the young post-war women known as ‘flappers’, her appearance disrupts and disturbs the conventional traditional values of decency. She wears a “bright shawl” and a “crazy hat full of feathers”, has “black and smouldering” eyes, a “red mouth” and a “humming voice, so unlike the drawl of the Rother villages” (GAH 27). Hannah’s ‘otherness’ is not just wild and exotic; Bob recognises that his association with her will take him “straight to the devil” (GAH 30). Like Alec D’Urberville in Tess of the d’Urbervilles, who is seen as Satan by the light of a field fire, she is shown surrounded by darkness, with her face illuminated by the hellish “red glow of the brazier” so that she looks like a “soul in hell” (GAH 218). Clem is also aware of her “crude physical power” that spoke of her desire to “torment him”, and that to him indicates a “perverse depth of mortal cruelty” (GAH 55). There is a certain romance about Hannah’s appearance and her taking to the road as and when she pleases, but Kaye-Smith is consistent in her portrait of her as a “bad lot” (GAH 50) when she is arrested for “fencing – or receiving stolen goods” (GAH 233). The establishment authority figure of a policeman is used to condemn all gipsies and to assert the ultimate inadequacy of their attempts to thwart the conventions of society, as he reinforces their ‘otherness’:
them gipsies is like animals, and you can’t hold them responsible for their doings as you would ordinary human beings. I’ve seen a deal of ’em, there being plenty in these parts, and always in court for something or other (GAH 233).
Just as, in character and demeanour, Bob is the antithesis of Clem, so Polly Ebony is set in direct contrast to Hannah. Polly subscribes to the expected and customary rules of conduct in this rural society, and like many women in the post-war years, accepts the vicissitudes of life without question. Her courtship with Clem reflects this as it takes place in the fields, under “A faint yellow moon” where the couple are part of the “honey-coloured stain on the mist” and where they innocently stand “hand in hand” (GAH 11). Demanding little of life, Polly’s simple delight is watching Clem working in the fields, as she is sitting “on the sun dried clods”, “contemplative, in the peace that often came to her” (GAH 23). She is happy to settle down to living with a farm labourer, her only concern being that she should “prove her fitness to be Clem’s wife” (GAH 65). Subdued in appearance, her clothes are simple and often down-at-heel, and she is unconcerned with the acquisition of wealth. Polly becomes the voice of moderation based on common sense, her life rooted in the natural world and her own wise perceptive instinct.
Her judgements of other people reflect her own honesty and awareness of the world around her. The antithesis of those who subscribe to a modern materialism, she has little time for material fripperies, and realises that people are more than the sum of their outward appearance. As a representative of the reliable rural working class she is quick to condemn those who adjudged country people as “a very common lot” (GAH 115) because they are unconcerned with the latest smart clothes, fashionable furnishings or precise etiquette. Rather Polly is motivated by kindness and love for her fellow human beings, regardless of their social status. When Bob is set on marrying a town girl (Mabel), Polly is against the match because “‘She äunt his style . . . And he doän’t love her'” (GAH 108). When Mabel criticises the roughness of Polly’s hands her reply that “‘I’d sooner have an honest, working pair of hands than a pair of useless white ‘uns'” (GAH 117) illustrates her pride in good honest toil and a contempt for the falsity of outward appearances. Her fatalistic acceptance of the vagaries of life has no place for extremes of behaviour in either love or religion. In matters of religion, Kaye-Smith uses Polly as the voice to condemn the Calvinist hell-fire Christianity that Bob has adopted. She wishes that “he hadn’t got hold of such a Salvation sort of religion”, and believes that “he’ll find as much trouble on his way to God as ever he found on his way to the devil” (GAH 166) and in his relationship with Hannah.
Polly represents the best of a simple authentic philosophy of life engendered by a closeness to the natural world and grounded in the cycle of the seasons. Her kindness and consideration for others manifests itself in a cheerfulness in times of trouble, a desire to “make [Bob] happy” (GAH 245) when he is rejected by the rest of his family, and in helping Clem to line Bob’s “grave with late primroses and cuckoo flowers and buttercups” (GAH 286). Kaye-Smith leaves Polly to sum up Bob’s life:
‘Sims to me as Bob’s life’s lik a green apple tree – he’s picked his fruit lik other men, but it’s bin hard and sour instead of sweet. Love and religion – they’re both sweet things, folks say, but with Bob they’ve bin as the hard green apples’ (GAH 235).
As the voice of country wisdom and common sense, Polly is given the final word when, after Bob’s funeral, she states that “‘if Bob had only had sense he might have come to be a saint'” and “‘if he had had sense he’d be alive now'” (GAH 287).
Although Kaye-Smith noted that as soon as the war was over the “natural desire was to get back to normal life – to dig a deep grave for the past” and that “desperate efforts were made to forget it [the War] (TWH 124), the narrative of Green Apple Harvest betrays vestigial concerns with the horror of war. In her tangential condemnation of the hell-fire preaching of Mr Beeman and extreme Protestantism, Kaye-Smith introduces images that are reminiscent of descriptions of the shell bombardment of the First World War combined with a traditional representation of hell. Bob’s discovery of horrific pictures of destruction in a Calvinist Bible with “black and burning” buildings, “fire raining down from a black and thundering sky” while “people ran about in confusion” (GAH 142) references the battlefield and the destruction of cities, such as Ypres, that were razed to the ground and left in ruins, or the bombing of London by zeppelins and Gothas. Bob’s dreams are characterised by the destruction of fire as he is haunted by visions that recall the devastated landscape of Flanders. He imagines the roofs of Weights Farm “seared and gutted with fire”, “the windows broken, and the road littered with black spars and rags” (GAH 145) while “he was among those who ran hither and thither” (GAH 144).
While the novel addresses religion and utilises a rural regional setting peopled by working class characters, in Green Apple Harvest Kaye-Smith introduces another theme which she would go on to develop in later works. By having Bob marry Mabel Powlard from the nearby town of Bulverhythe, she highlights the differences in attitude between town dwellers and those from the country. The narrative emphasises the honest reality of country people in contrast to the superficiality and materialism of those from the town. With her up-to-date clothing, her make-up, her insistence on rigid rules of behaviour and her superficially flirtatious ways, Mabel brings the exciting yet alien “atmosphere of streets and shops and picture houses” (GAH 92) to the countryside. Having none of the robust rebelliousness of Hannah or the common sense of Polly, she is a character lacking in tenacity and concerned only with the frivolous pretence conferred by the wearing of the latest fashions. She is considered pretty but “a trifle anæmic” (GAH 92), her hair is “pulled down fashionably over her ears” (GAH 93), and with her tasselled “boots and her handbag and the powder on her nose” she makes Polly “feel all dowdy and common” (GAH 95). Mabel’s view of those from the country is patronising and snobbish, so that she considers herself far superior to Clem and Polly. Instead of spending time on having “clothes washed and mended . . . and dinner cooked all as a matter of course” (GAH 117) she would rather spend her days dusting vases and ornaments.
The ‘otherness’ of the urbanite is reinforced in the descriptions of Mabel’s feelings of alienation in the countryside. She becomes “an exile from [the] warm, lighted streets, adrift in the solitude” (GAH 114). Mabel perceives the natural world to be “strangely and terrifyingly lonely” (GAH 114). Mabel’s experience of the countryside is rendered in a vocabulary associated with animal menace so that she hears the “moan of the water” in the ditches, feels that the woods have “crept down to the marsh” and that the fields have a “savage remoteness”, while the entire countryside contains a “dim threat” (GAH 114) of alienation. To add to the strangeness and discomfiture of her circumstances, Mabel realises that her husband belongs to this “dark, unfriendly country” and that he is “part of its clay” (GAH 114). To highlight Mabel’s complete estrangement from all that is natural, Kaye-Smith contrasts her uncaring attitude, as a mother, with Polly’s loving motherliness for Bob and Mabel’s child. Once Mabel has left Bob and returned to the town she is more than willing for Clem and Polly to “keep the child” (GAH 262) for she “did not want him” (GAH 285). Viewed from the perspective of Bob’s country values, Mabel is a complex mass of contradictions. She is “provoking, enticing, repulsing, disappointing, suffering, repining” (GAH 264) and is only happy in an urban environment “with her furniture and her piano” (GAH 265). To emphasise the difference between town and country, Kaye-Smith juxtaposes a prosaic description of Mabel sitting at the piano “which she could not play”, picking out “with one finger the opening bars of the Waltz Dream”, with an idyllically lyrical account of the countryside at dusk:
The air thickened as it chilled, smudging the few faint stars that were hanging round the chimney of Pookwell. Down at the rim of the eastern sky above the woods, there was a wan kindling, showing that soon the May moon would rise and call the buttercups, and the chervil and the roads with the feathery dust, out of the darkness into her white peace (GAH 263).
Such contrasts between town and country and the identification of the countryside with the peace to be gained from solitude and communion with nature is echoed in Vita Sackville-West’s “The Land”. In the section that depicts the countryside in winter Sackville-West notes that townsmen “have lost, in losing solitude,/ Something, – an inward grace, the seeing eyes,/ The power of being alone;/ The power of being alone with earth and skies” (Sackville-West 31).
Throughout the novel, Kaye-Smith uses her evocations of the natural world to illustrate the efficacy of such an environment and to preach her own religious philosophy. For those who cannot see beyond the material, the countryside is threatening. For those who can appreciate the beauty of nature, and who understand their place in creation, the countryside has a spiritual significance and is reflective of the Christian teaching that “God is love and as all things lovely are a part of His love” (GAH 284), and that humanity can come to a unique closeness to God through contemplation of the natural world.
This novel is divided against itself in that the narrative is driven by Kaye-Smith’s desire to promulgate a specific religious ideology, and as a result plotting and characterisation are repressed and made subservient to her doctrinal position. Bob Fuller is the device she uses to extrapolate this theology as she engineers a case for a particular ‘brand’ of Christianity. Mansfield is critical of Kaye-Smith’s depiction of Bob Fuller, and the characterisation of him throughout the text suggesting that if Kaye-Smith intended Bob to be the hero and that this “is the story of [his] lusty youth, [his] broken prime, [his] bitter harvest. . .” (Mansfield 251) the writer has failed to effectively realise her intention. However, Mansfield’s assertions take no account of Kaye-Smith’s use of Bob not just as a hero figure but as a vehicle for the exploration of the nature of religious belief. Kaye-Smith believed, in hindsight, that “the religion expresses my own deeper feelings more surely if less clearly than anything” (TWH 142) else she had, or was to write. In her estimation the novel “was immediately successful” (TWH 141).
The reviews were mixed. Mansfield’s review condemns the novel for the rural regionality that continually emphasises Sussex. Most particularly she objects to the dialect that is “so faithfully recorded that words with double dots, double vowels, buzzing, humming words, words with their tails cut off, lean words grown fat and stodgy words” (Mansfield 250) that it overpowers much of the narrative. Where Mansfield sees a mismatched presentation of rurality and characterisation in the text, Punch hailed Green Apple Harvest as “genuine and of the soil” and as a work that was “redolent of earth”. Similarly the review in The Observer detected the authenticity of the novel as ‘country’ writing and noted that Green Apple Harvest expressed a “plain kinship with elemental natural things, as a husbandman looking over his ploughed field”. At a loss to explain why Kaye-Smith was not a more popular novelist, the reviewer recognises that the work deals with the “basic facts of human nature and spirituality” while praising it as “art of that passionate rightness that belongs also to natural things, like sky and sea and open fields”. More recently, Glen Cavaliero has recognised a religious dimension to the novel in his assertion that Kaye-Smith’s own Christian convictions are “subdued to a more general concern with the values of a Christian humanism” (Cavaliero 76). However, in this generalised comment he has overlooked her belief in the mystical spiritualism of a catholic Christianity that looks to a relationship with God through communion with creation, which lies at the centre of the narrative.
While the narrative and characterisation in Green Apple Harvest are dominated by the rural regional setting and the religious disputation, there is an underlying sub-text that references the legacy of the war. Bob’s desire for immediate physical gratification from a dissipated lifestyle, alongside his ardent searching for a meaning to his life, the descriptions of war-torn landscapes, the characterisation of Hannah’s subversion of behavioural norms, Mabel’s materialism, and Clem and Polly’s rejection of all that speaks of a changed world, highlight the lasting effects of the disruption of society brought about by war. While reflecting the concerns of contemporary society, Kaye-Smith’s depiction of the accessibility of God may well have resonated with, and provided reassurance for, a readership who were mourning the dead of the First World War, and seeking for something to believe in. She believed Green Apple Harvest to be “my best novel, and in this I have the support of no less an authority than George Moore” (TWH 141). However, it is debatable if Kaye-Smith has managed to reach beyond a preaching insularity, to achieve the universality suggested in Moore’s dictum that “art must be parochial in the beginning to become cosmopolitan in the end” (Moore 3). Although a careful reading argues for the ecumenicalism of faith, the presentation of the rural regionality, and a narrow, rarefied interpretation of Christianity, constrain the novel to a provinciality from which it is unable to escape. For a twenty-first century readership, religion and its presentation, mediated through the use of a dialect language that dominates the narrative, means that at best, Green Apple Harvest appears to be an unconscious form of proselytizing propaganda for a particular religious philosophy.