HomeGroupsTalkMoreZeitgeist
Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Loading...

The Shepherd's Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape (2015)

by James Rebanks

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7222723,112 (4.03)66
Some people's lives are entirely their own creations. James Rebanks' isn't. The first son of a shepherd, who was the first son of a shepherd himself, his family have lived and worked in the Lake District of Northern England for generations, further back than recorded history. It's a part of the world known mainly for its romantic descriptions by Wordsworth and the much loved illustrated children's books of Beatrix Potter. But James' world is quite different. His way of life is ordered by the seasons and the work they demand. It hasn't changed for hundreds of years: sending the sheep to the fells in the summer and making the hay; the autumn fairs where the flocks are replenished; the grueling toil of winter when the sheep must be kept alive, and the light-headedness that comes with spring, as the lambs are born and the sheep get ready to return to the hills and valleys.… (more)
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 66 mentions

English (26)  Dutch (1)  All languages (27)
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
The author accuses the city people who visit the peak district of searching for a fantasy experience without realising he is himself living a fantasy experience 24/7. His life is some sort of bizarre medieval reenactment society gone wrong, living in the past like it was a virtue in itself. The book itself has a very simple and tired old conceit of tying his biography to his regular day to day work which is a solid structure but the author finds it hard to stop himself from ranting in his wild tangents. I guess sheeperds life is nie stressful than I imagined. ( )
  TeaTimeCoder | Dec 23, 2020 |
This is a memoir by a Lake District shepherd who has, perhaps surprisingly, become a Twitter sensation in recent years. This memoir of the farming experiences of himself, father and grandfather is a passionate defence of a way of life that he sees as a continuity of a shepherding tradition going back centuries and even millennia (his own family has apparently farmed the same land for 600 years). He writes movingly and evocatively of the timelessness of the fells and the sense of purpose of a life in tune with the rhythms of nature (the book is divided into four sections by the seasons). Yet, despite this positive view, he does sometimes come across, particularly in the early part of the book, as somewhat bitter towards the rest of the world, basically anyone not part of this farming tradition. He had a troubled schooling, not seeing the point in trying as he was a part of this continuity of the farming tradition, and stubbornly resisting his teachers' desire to "better" himself. Later on, though, he took A levels in evening classes and then a history degree at Oxford, before returning to his farm. He certainly represents a strong ambassador for a particular way of life, though I feel slightly ambivalent about some of the ways in which he expresses this. ( )
  john257hopper | Jul 16, 2020 |
Atrocious ( )
  bgramman | May 9, 2020 |
When people think of the Lake District the first thing that comes to mind is the landscape; the majestic fells, the lakes and tarns nestled among the peaks and valleys and the harsh beauty of our National Park. It is a place that has inspired writers and artists for hundreds of years, and has 16 million visitors every year. However, for a number of people they are completely dependent on this landscape to make their living. James Rebanks is one of those people.

The Rebanks family have lived and worked as shepherds in the Lake District for generations. His father was a shepherd before him, and his grandfather taught both of them all he knew. The inexorable grind of the seasons defines what they do and when. The Herdwick flock is moved up onto the high fell during the summer, and all the farmers gather to bring it down at the end of the season. The shows and sales are in the autumn when they sell the spare lambs and look for the new males tups to add to their bloodlines and quality of stock. Winter is the hardest time; the incessant rain, heavy snows and storms make keeping the sheep alive a daily battle, even for the tough Herdwicks. Spring brings new challenges as it is lambing time. Most of his flock can manage perfectly well, but there is always those that can’t and need that extra assistance. As another year passes the sheep are move back up onto the fells once again.

‘This is my life. I want no other.’

Rebanks is not afraid of hard work. Following his father and grandfather into this way of life, and he has chosen a tough and demanding career, but he loves it. He paid little attention at school, wanting to be out in the fields and up on the fells, continuing a way of life that people from the Viking age would still recognise. In his early twenties started education again this time with the single mindedness and determination to succeed. It gave him a separate career that supports the work on the farm. Like his father, he is strong minded and opinionated; great qualities for battling through all that the elements and bureaucracy have to throw at him, but not necessarily for making relationships straightforward. He is not the most eloquent or lyrical of writers, he tells it as it is, but the enthusiasm for his way of life comes across is deep hearted and honest and this is what makes this book such a pleasure to read. ( )
  PDCRead | Apr 6, 2020 |
This is a great, almost deceptively straightforward account of what upland sheep farmers do, and why, and a thought-provoking memoir about what it feels like to grow up in a family with a farming tradition. And it's also a challenge to the reader to provoke us into looking at landscape not just aesthetically, but also in terms of the ways humans have interacted with it productively, and continue to do so.

When Rebanks, as a rebellious teenager counting the days to the end of school, was first presented with the Wainwright-and-Wordsworth way of looking at his native region, he couldn't see the point of it. He'd been brought up to think of fells and fields according to the kind of grazing and weather-protection they offered, who owned them, who farmed them, and so on; no-one he knew would be daft enough to climb a hill unless there was work to be done at the top of it. Nowadays he's a bit more nuanced: he admits that Wordsworth had a lot of respect for shepherds and the work they did, he doesn't begrudge Wainwright his escape from Blackburn, and recognises that both have something relevant to say about the region, even if the people who climb mountains clutching their books don't always get it...

The only Lakeland writer he has serious respect for, though, is Beatrix Potter, who, whatever you might think of her children's books, was a committed breeder of Herdwick sheep and a responsible landowner, as well as employing a highly-respected shepherd whose advice she was prepared to listen to. And Herdwick sheep are clearly Rebanks's real passion: he often has to rein himself in when he starts getting lyrical about the finer points of ewes and tups he has known. Even if you barely know one end of a sheep from the other, this makes for interesting reading, because it's so evidently something Rebank cares deeply about and takes the trouble to communicate clearly.

The autobiographical parts of the book are very interesting, too. Firstly, of course, we have to think about the big question of "tradition" — do you have a special claim on something just because it's what your grandfather and father did? Why should people who happened to be born in the Lake District have a better right to work there than those born in Manchester or Blackburn? Rebanks doesn't quite confront this, but he tries to demonstrate how important it is to the work he does that he has been around sheep and shepherds since early childhood. Hill-farming techniques have been optimised in very local ways over hundreds (perhaps thousands) of years, and are best learnt from people with local knowledge. Only long experience gives you the ability to anticipate problems and be in the right place at the right time to deal with them. Also, perhaps less obviously, farming is an activity that involves complicated networks of deals between farmers who have different surpluses and needs at different times, and most of these deals rely on trust that has been built up over a long period. It's much easier to trust someone if you've known and worked with their family for several generations, even if you don't know them personally.

The other striking autobiographical element is his slightly unusual background as someone who got into the least favourable channel of the English education system, left it as early as he could with no qualifications to speak of, and then went back into education as an adult. He has a lot of nicely caustic things to say about the terrible school he went to, as well as making fun of the people who only know him as a sheep-farmer and suddenly start taking him more seriously when they discover that he has an Oxford degree (and a high-powered second job advising UNESCO...).

I have a feeling that this is not just the book you bring back from the gift-shop at (insert Lakeland tourist attraction), but something that will stand up as one of those minor classics of rural writing that people are still discovering with pleasure in secondhand bookshops in fifty years' time. ( )
  thorold | Mar 19, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Towards the head of these Dales was found a perfect Republic of Shepherds and Agriculturalists, among whom the plough of each man was confined to the maintenance of his own family, or to the occasional accommodation of his neighbour. Two or three cows furnished each family with milk and cheese. The chapel was the only edifice that presided over these dwellings, the supreme head of this pure Commonwealth; the members of which existed in the midst of a powerful empire, like an ideal society or an organized community, whose constitution had been imposed and regulated by the mountains which protected it. Neither high-born nobleman, knight, nor esquire was here; but many of these humble sons of the hills had a consciousness that the land, which they walked over and tilled, had for more than five hundred years been possessed by men of their name and blood... William Wordsworth, A Guide Through the District of the Lakes in the North of England (1810)
Dedication
Dedicated to the memory of my grandfather,
W.H. Rebanks,
and with respect to my father,
T.W. Rebanks
First words
I realized we were different, really different, on a rainy morning in 1987.
Quotations
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

Some people's lives are entirely their own creations. James Rebanks' isn't. The first son of a shepherd, who was the first son of a shepherd himself, his family have lived and worked in the Lake District of Northern England for generations, further back than recorded history. It's a part of the world known mainly for its romantic descriptions by Wordsworth and the much loved illustrated children's books of Beatrix Potter. But James' world is quite different. His way of life is ordered by the seasons and the work they demand. It hasn't changed for hundreds of years: sending the sheep to the fells in the summer and making the hay; the autumn fairs where the flocks are replenished; the grueling toil of winter when the sheep must be kept alive, and the light-headedness that comes with spring, as the lambs are born and the sheep get ready to return to the hills and valleys.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary

Quick Links

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (4.03)
0.5 1
1 2
1.5 1
2 8
2.5 3
3 20
3.5 13
4 54
4.5 18
5 55

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 157,804,944 books! | Top bar: Always visible