Housman Country offers three books for the price of one: a lucid biographical portrait; a study of Housman’s lasting influence on our culture; and, as an appendix (taking up 100 or so unnumbered pages), the whole of A Shropshire Lad ... To demonstrate Housman’s enduring impact, Parker ranges far and wide: Morrissey and YouTube are here as well as EM Forster and the Ramblers’ Association ... as Parker shows in his fine study, the borders of Housmanland are uncontrolled and stretch as far as Russia and China.
Parker offers a sensitive, well-researched study of the poet and his time. He takes as his subject Housman’s readers as much as the writer—an extraordinarily broad mission, given the popularity of A Shropshire Lad. Mr. Parker is an unabashed enthusiast who makes a spirited case for the artistic merit of the work, all the more persuasive because he frankly concedes its limits ... Mr. Parker’s book is not a biography, though his comprehensive sketch of Housman’s life and publishing career, running to 135 pages, is a model of brief biography, detailed enough for most readers ... as Mr. Parker demonstrates in his skillful, judicious analysis of the work, Housman’s virtues as a poet are all too easily overlooked. There is, after all, a lot to be said for a perfect expression ... However, the pages devoted to Housman’s cultural influence sink under the weight of their comprehensive intention ... Mr. Parker’s labor of love is enriched by a remarkable breadth of research and is guided by keen intelligence, and only a foolhardy writer would have the hubris to undertake another book of its kind.
Parker is particularly interesting on the intersection of Housman’s mournful portrayal of Shropshire as 'the land of lost content' with the elegiac strain in myths of Englishness ... Housman Country presents a comprehensive survey of the effect of such poems on successive generations. It must be acknowledged that certain chapters—such as the one on musical adaptations of Housman, or the final one on his presence in contemporary culture—read rather too much like a catalog, or a series of encyclopedia entries, and the book overall would have benefited from a stronger narrative shape. But many of the responses, tributes, and recollections unearthed by Parker are both striking and moving.