The setting is rural Oxfordshire, England, in the 1880s and 90s, written half a century later. Although it is an autobiographical account of the author's childhood and youth--she being Laura, rather than Flora--it is written in third-person. However, other than a few remarks comparing later events and conditions with the time period being chronicled, the narrative is not that of a mature adult reminiscing about the past. Instead, the story is told with the innocence of a young child, largely dispassionate and somewhat devoid of emotion. Although Laura is the central character, the narrator is more akin to an academic observer than a participant, but taking care to be true to mirror childlike thoughts, reactions and expectations. Facts are frankly stated without much judgmental moralizing or a cultivated perspective.
Thompson was a natural history devotee and the book reflects this proclivity in lengthy and detailed descriptions of flora and fauna. Above all this is a documentary work. Depending on the reader it can be judged as either a fascinatingly comprehensive account of minutiae from this time period in rural England, or a dreary and long-drawn-out collection of sociological and botanical trivia. There is scant dialogue or drama and no suspenseful anticipation of any kind. This is a masterful work for students of rural life in late Victorian England, but for others it may be a lot of reading (over 500 pages) to glean a few tidbits of childhood impressions and working class habits and mentality from days of yore. Yes, it does contain multiple gems and treasures to savour but be forewarned that this trilogy is not a work to be compared with the novels of Austen, Dickens or Hardy.