The Darling Buds of May

H. E. Bates

Introduced by Ian Jack
Illustrated by Alice Tait

With their outrageous tastes and boundless energy, the Larkins have charmed many a reader. Alice Tait’s illustrations for Folio capture the epicurean excesses of this flamboyant family.

Published price: US$ 47.95


The Darling Buds of May

Gorging on ice cream, wondering whether to cook two roast geese or three, mixing up cocktails whose strength leaves casual visitors prostrate – the Larkins are gargantuan in their appetites. Magnificently vulgar, their house contains a galleon-shaped cocktail cabinet and gold taps in the bathroom (over which local ladies exclaim in horror). Yet the entire Larkin family is also blessed with an acute appreciation for nature and beauty, revelling in hearing the nightingale, wandering through the bluebell wood and enjoying the splendid bounty of their surroundings.

Production Details

The Darling Buds of May book

Bound in cloth.

Printed with a design by Alice Tait.

Set in Bembo.


6 colour illustrations.

Book size: 9" × 5¾", 160 pages.

Introducing the Larkins

The Larkins infect everyone around them with their own Homeric lust for life; from prim Miss Pilchester who longs for Pop’s velvety kisses, to the anaemic tax officer who falls in love with the exquisitely seductive Mariette. ‘The Larkins’ secret,’ H. E. Bates wrote, ‘is in fact that they live as many of us would like to live if only we had the guts and nerve to flout the conventions. Pop’s determination not to pay tax and to make the most of the National Health ‘lark’ might still attract disapproval, but H. E. Bates’s genius was to balance Pop’s roguery with his unflagging zest. No matter how many cocktails have been consumed the night before, Pop is up to feed the animals before dashing away to wheel and deal; and even the youngest children sell wildflowers to passing motorists. His family’s boundless energy is in stark contrast to the local gentry struggling to hold on to estates or get by on tiny pensions. By the end of this effervescent comedy the Larkins have seduced, charmed or outwitted every other character – and the reader as well.

The journalist and former editor of Granta, Ian Jack, comments in his affectionate introduction that when Bates was writing in 1958, rationing had only recently ended and most readers would have drooled with anticipation at the descriptions of Jersey cream, butter, fat asparagus, sizzling bacon and golden-yolked eggs; ‘even today, it would take a strong-willed reader to get more than half-way through the book and resist a visit to the fridge.’ Alice Tait – who proved her devotion to fine food in her tasty illustrations to Jane Grigson’s Good Things – has managed to capture the full sensual pleasure of the Larkins. Perfick!

‘One of the most vividly evocative writers of English … able to conjure up in a handful of words whole landscapes and moods’


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Review by davidjbrown10 on 11th Aug 2015

Text: Illustrations: Binding: Rating: 5/5

"I confess — The Darling Buds of May was such a good deal in the latest Summer Sale that I added it at the last moment to my already bulging basket, and I am so glad I did. Re-acquainting myself aft..." [read more]

Review by harlequin1088 on 17th Mar 2012

Text: Illustrations: Binding: Rating: 5/5

"This is a fabulous book. Wonderful illustrations and beautifully bound. This would make a fantastic gift for any fan of the Larkin family."

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