I was on a much-rehearsed trawl of the labyrinthine bookshop when I spotted it. A neat green-cloth country volume of the type churned out in their thousands in the 1940s and ’50s – years of hardship but also ones of optimism and dreams of a better future. I read the faded spine. A House in the Country by Ruth Adam, published by the Country Book Club, 1957. Now this is the kind of thing I like. My bookshelves sag under the collective weight of H. J. Massingham, Adrian Bell, Ronald Blythe and Cecil Torr, but Ruth Adam was new to me. ‘This is a cautionary tale, and true,’ the book begins . . .