One Fine Day: A Journey Through English Time (hardback)


A time-travelling, genealogical adventure, bringing pre-industrial, rural, eighteenth-century England vividly to life on the page.

‘Elegiac, consistently funny, deeply moving.’

Richard Beard
SKU: 9781912836994 Categories: , ,

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One day Ian Marchant, acclaimed author of books on music, railways and pubs, decided, as all men of a certain age must, to have a dig around his family history. Surprisingly quickly, a web search informed him that his seven-times-great great-grandfather, Thomas Marchant had left a detailed diary from 1714 to 1728, and that a collection of dedicated local historians had transcribed it a few decades before. So far, so jolly …

Life-loving diarist Thom – who liked a drink and a game of cards – feels recognisably Marchant to Ian. With fascinating, immersive detail we learn about Thom’s family farm and fishponds; about dung, horses and mud, about beer, the wife’s nights out, his own job troubles and their shared worries for their children. But as Ian digs deeper beyond the Sussex diary’s bucolic portrait he discovers a subtext – a family descended from immigrants, with anti-establishment politics, who are struggling with illness, political instability and cash crises – just as their country does three centuries on.

‘When I was reflecting late one January evening on the differences between Thom and me, I realised the unbridgeable thing that comes between us is industrialisation. He lived right at its beginning, while I am living somewhere towards its end. Old Thom Marchant was one of the last people before industrialisation to understand how his world worked – and how to be largely self-sufficient in it. He knew where his food came from, his fuel, his water, his clothes. He knew how the welfare system worked, and was part of its administration; he knew who looked after the roads, too. He collected taxes. He was not separate from the system, but part of it.’

Rich with immersive detail, One Fine Day draws a living portrait of Marchant family life in the 1720s and how their England (rainy, muddy, politically turbulent, illness-ridden) became the England of the 2020s.

‘Bloody marvellous.’

Nicholas Lezard, New Statesman


‘Ian Marchant is one of England’s most original writers.One Fine Day is a masterwork, a rich plum pudding of a story which enfolds the ingredients of a personal quest, the story of a hybrid family identity, of our industrial history and our current political mess. Marchant is frequently very funny and also deadly serious … weaving together a forgotten past with not just his own life, but that of a nation. Not often do writers get to pull off such a masterly leap from the specific to the universal. Marchant has written a book everyone should read, a complex, joyful, polyglot of a book for our troubled times.’

Monique Roffey, author of The Mermaid of Black Conch


‘A unique and exhilarating exploration of time and love; Ian Marchant conspires with his diarist ancestor to bring to life the eccentricities and the importance of the early eighteenth century.’

Richard Beard, author of Sad Little Men and The Day That Went Missing


‘I enjoyed it hugely, and was strangely moved. By bringing his long-ago ancestors to life, Ian Marchant has done a rather miraculous thing – we feel his family stretching out their hand from the depths of the past, and drawing us in. It’s wide-ranging, informative and often very funny.’

Deborah Moggach, author of The Black Dress


‘Original and entertaining.’

Daily Mail


‘Extraordinary … A highly entertaining and often deeply sensitive account of a man and his ancestor, thought-provoking and often moving.’

Who Do You Think You Are? magazine


‘Deeply enchanting and fully fanged … Marchant’s book made me laugh out loud in many places. He also moved me to tears … He is humane, invigorating company, and a joy to read.’

Church Times


‘One very fine book.’



‘Marchant is infectiously curious and impetuous … a delightful thing.’

The Financial Times


‘This book is too engaging, in both senses of the world, to be anything but loved. … [Marchant] throws a rope to the past and lets it each us things we would do well to remember. Neighbourliness; civic virtue; decency in the form of honesty. This book is wonderful.’

The Oldie

Read an extract.

Also available in ebook.