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Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village (1969)

by Ronald Blythe

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6351425,473 (4.01)18
This colourful, perceptive portrayal of English country life reverberates with the voices of the village inhabitants, from the reminiscences of survivors of the Great War evoking days gone by, to the concerns of a younger generation of farm-workers and the fascinating and personal recollections of, among others, the local schoolteacher, doctor, blacksmith, saddler, district nurse and magistrate. Providing insights into farming, education, welfare, class, religion and death, Akenfieldforms a unique document of a way of life that has, in many ways, disappeared.… (more)
Recently added byTara_Calaby, private library, elam11, TonyLloyd, pasture99, EmBot, tuckpo, x_hoxha
Legacy LibrariesGillian Rose, W. H. Auden
  1. 10
    Return to Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village in the 21st Century by Craig Taylor (chrisharpe)
    chrisharpe: Published in 1969, Ronald Blythe's "Akenfield" is a portrait of early C20th English rural life recounted by Suffolk farmers and villagers. Thirty five years later, Craig Taylor returned to the area on which Akenfield was based and conducted interviews with locals to find out how their lives had changed, as well as interviewing the octogenarian Ronald Blythe. Both books are classics of English environmental literature.… (more)
  2. 00
    Ulverton by Adam Thorpe (chrisharpe)
  3. 00
    Ask the Fellows Who Cut the Hay by George Ewart Evans (chrisharpe)
  4. 00
    Lifting the Latch by Sheila Stewart (chrisharpe)

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» See also 18 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Pleasing and personal account of a small English village over time. The period covered, the mid-twentieth century, bestrides plentiful social changes (but would perhaps every age seem so, if one could listen in, as we do here, to elders looking back over the times they've lived through)? Some of the reminiscing and reporting here evokes the directness and mundane detail found in the Mass Observation project, just as the stories and descriptions that Blythe collects from villagers show the same honest and unaffected authenticity that Richard Hoggart examined sympathetically in The Uses of Literacy not too many years earlier. ( )
  eglinton | Mar 22, 2020 |
I read this four years ago and still think about it frequently. It is an incredible historical and historiographical document, and reminds me a little of the Up series (oral history of selected subjects, examining life and class in Great Britain in the 60s, using problematic and outdated methods that nonetheless lead to a phenomenal work of art, etc.). If you have any interest in social history, especially of the UK, there really is not another book I can think of as good as Akenfield. ( )
  sansmerci | Jan 4, 2020 |
bought at the strand! ( )
  mahallett | Nov 7, 2018 |
This has perhaps got to be one of my favourite books of all time. The true tales of the inhabitants of a 60s village told in their own words not only grab the reader with their authenticity, they tell of a bygone age and teach of how it was that we came to be where we are now. So much forgotten wisdom and knowledge is shared within the pages of this treasure trove I am excited every time I come to open my lovely second hand first edition copy and always delighted by what I find; from the tragedy of the first world war losses to the farmers' Dickenisan treatment of their workers it doesn't paint a happy picture of rural England in the first half of the 20th century but it does bring it to life in the everyday language of the men and women who lived in a small farming community in the SE of England. ( )
  StephBradley | Dec 11, 2014 |
I reread this after a long break. Akenfield is a microhistory of a Suffolk village written in the style of a novel or ethnography. It is based on intimate interviews with people who lived for generations in the same place. The most moving for me are those with those Blythe calls 'The Survivors'. These are those whose memories extend back before the first world war and the introduction of mechanization into agriculture. Their lives were unspeakably hard and narrow. Besides beer, which was paid to rural workers in the field as part of their wages, there were almost no pleasures. 'We had singing', one man says, but Blythe describes a song delivered in a pub as 'violent and full of attack'. Religion provided the main cultural life - and there were plenty to choose from. Most C of E but a proliferation of Chapel-based activities, especially the Strict Baptists who follow a rigid bible-led piety that shores up the boundaries between the insiders and outsiders. Blythe lists the Rules of the Strict Baptist Church and it seems a marvel that it had any members at all. At the CofE, the Rural Dean seems like a visitor from another world. He had arrived after the war and had seen the rural revolution, but he saw the village people as fundamentally the children of Dissent - Unitarianism, anabaptism, socialism. These were their creeds. Because of low levels of literacy, those who escaped this constrained world by emigration to Canada or Australia were really lost - no letters came back. Overall, a justly famous study of a world that no longer exists.
2 vote hmc276 | Jun 12, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
What does it feel like to be anyone other than ourselves?

The great subject of Akenfield, and the reason it remains such a vital book to read now, even in America, thousands of miles from its milieu, is the ways people grapple with changes in the patterns of life in their own time—whether through social flux, cultural variation, demographic shifts, technological progress, environmental degradation, or some combination. Blythe recognized that under the placid surface of a place as seemingly unchanging as Akenfield lay a clash of virtual tectonic plates, as a class-riven, tradition-bound, nearly feudal community began to erupt and fissure.
added by elenchus | editslate.com, Matt Weiland (Oct 9, 2015)

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Blythe, Ronaldprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bailey, PeterIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lindberg, Magnus K:sonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The village lies folded away in one of the shallow valleys which dip into the East Anglia coastal plain.
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