0

Two books about farming

Perhaps my previous book review post Two books about the countryside could have had the same title as this one. The two books reviewed here are by people, who are currently farming in the north of England. I didn’t read them consecutively, sandwiching a work of fiction between them. Look out for my review of that shortly!

Book cover Adventures of the Yorkshire Shepherdess

Adventures of the Yorkshire Shepherdess by Amanda Owen is the first of her books I have read, but the fourth she has written. It is described on the cover as ‘The new book from TV’s favourite shepherdess’. I haven’t seen her on TV, either. However, I follow her on Twitter and have heard her speak on BBC Radio 4. I read Adventures of the Yorkshire Shepherdess on my phone using the Borrow Box App, where it was one of the featured books. It was published in March 2020.

Amanda Owen has a lively style of writing. The farm and her large family provide her with plenty to write about. How she finds the time is difficult to imagine, but as she said in the book, ‘If you want anything done ask a busy person’. The introduction sets the scene and we meet the family with their six children. Although part of a series, Adventures of the Yorkshire Shepherdess stands alone. Farming successes and sad events as well as the purchase of a house and its refurbishment make for variety. Stories of missing animals add drama. There is a section with photographs. Conversations in particular are in Yorkshire dialect. The family increases in size and other interesting characters feature in the adventures. Amanda Owen’s next book is being published on 28th October 2021.

Book cover - English Pastorl

Reviews of two of James Rebanks’ earlier books have appeared on this blog. His latest book English Pastoral – An Inheritance was in the local library when I made a flying visit to it recently. I had wanted to read it since its publication in September 2020. James Rebanks farms in Cumbria not all that far from Amanda Owen. The counties of Yorkshire and Cumbria neighbour one another. In English Pastoral James Rebanks considers the introduction to farming his grandfather gave him as a boy. His family’s farming history on two farms and his life on one of those now in the changing climate (of ideas as well as weather) are described evocatively. I have followed this author on Twitter since before his first book was published and his anonymity as @herdyshepherd1 (a contributor to Cumbria Life magazine) ended.

Although this book is mainly about a particular location, there is nothing parochial about it. The author is well aware of the wider world. One of the people, who endorsed English Pastoral is Isabella Tree, whose book Wilding I reviewed recently. It’s a small world! English Pastoral was the book of the year 2020 in several UK newspapers. James Rebanks is working on his next book.

I enjoyed both these books and feel that I now understand more about the various activities I observe in the fields around the village where I live, than I did even last month!

With all the debate about climate change, rewilding and food supplies, the voices of people working on the land are particularly worth listening to. These two authors want to leave the world a better place than they found it.

2

What I read in August 2020 (Part 1)

I bought The widow’s secret by Katharine Swartz from a local bookshop, which is currently opening in the mornings only.

I have read and reviewed the previous three books in the series, The Tales of Goswell. Two characters from earlier in the series appear in this book, which may be read as a stand-alone novel. The widow’s secret continues with the same structure – two linked stories set in different centuries but similar locations told in alternate chapters. The stories are gripping. I finished reading this book the day after I began. The subject matter is not for those of a squeamish disposition, but tackles important matters of human relationships, exploitation and more.

Living in the area in which the stories are set (and having known the author when she also lived here) added to the interest of the book for me. I hope other readers will be encouraged to visit some of the places mentioned once travel becomes easier after the pandemic. The Beacon Museum and The Rum Story are worth visiting, but are currently closed.

My reviews of Katharine Swartz’s earlier books may be found here.

Book reviews A-M has the rest of the book reviews I have written.

 

The Shepherd’s Life 

This book is being treated to a post of its own for various reasons including the fact that it is the only library book I have finished reading in March so far.

 

I began following @herdyshepherd1 on Twitter a few years ago. I probably heard about his account from the magazine, Cumbria Life, where he was writing a regular column. I thoroughly enjoyed his Tweets and the associated photos. He managed to keep his identity a secret for a long time.

When this book was published it was also serialised on Radio 4. I remember listening to some of it. I have only recently laid my hands on a (hardback) copy, which I found fascinating. I had borrowed a later book The Illustrated Herdwick Shepherd from the library. It complements the first book, although it can be read without having read the earlier book.

The Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District is autobiographical. It is well-written and explains a lifestyle which the majority of people in towns and cities know little about. Reading it after Burning Secrets, I discovered how flocks had been built up again following the devastating outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease.

The author, James Rebanks, used his Twitter account wisely and built up a huge following before his books were published. Having followed him on Twitter I am aware of some events which happened to him (or his family) after those included in the book. It is a bit like fitting a jigsaw puzzle together.

He was the shepherd I mentioned in a poem I wrote, March.

I consider this to be a very important book and recommend it. (It won one prize and was short-listed for two others.)