The author of the beloved No.1 bestseller The Shepherd's Life returns with a stirring history of family, loss and the land over three generations on a Lake District farm
'I can't imagine anyone starting to read English Pastoral and not being eager to read it all at once, as I did, and not being moved by the life and the landscape Rebanks describes so well. I was thrilled by it' Philip Pullman
As a boy, James Rebanks's grandfather taught him to work the land the old way. Their family farm in the Lake District hills was part of an ancient agricultural landscape: a patchwork of crops and meadows, of pastures grazed with livestock, and hedgerows teeming with wildlife. And yet, by the time James inherited the farm, it was barely recognisable. The men and women had vanished from the fields; the old stone barns had crumbled; the skies had emptied of birds and their wind-blown song.
English Pastoral is the story of an inheritance: one that affects us all. It tells of how rural landscapes around the world were brought close to collapse, and the age-old rhythms of work, weather, community and wild things were lost. And yet this elegy from the northern fells is also a song of hope: of how, guided by the past, one farmer began to salvage a tiny corner of England that was now his, doing his best to restore the life that had vanished and to leave a legacy for the future.
This is a book about what it means to have love and pride in a place, and how, against all the odds, it may still be possible to build a new pastoral: not a utopia, but somewhere decent for us all.
We're very lucky in this generation to have so perceptive, eloquent, and passionate an advocate for a better way of doing things ... I can't imagine anyone starting to read English Pastoral and not being eager to read it all at once, as I did
A wonderful and timely account of one farmer's lifelong effort to do right by his family, his land, his animals and his ecosystem
English Pastoral is a work of art. It is nourishing and grounding to read ... this brave and beautiful book will shape hearts and minds.
James Rebanks describes the life of a Lakeland working farmer from the inside with a unrivalled truth and eloquence
Vivid, accessible, inspiring - a story about one man's emerging land ethic, and an appreciation of the old ways in modern times. A vital book for anybody who eats
A highly evocative, lyrically-written, involving personal history, which conveys the unique and particular beauty of the Lake District's fell landscape, and records the damage wreaked on it by industrial farming. Through the eyes of James Rebanks as a grandson, son, and then father, we witness the tragic decline of traditional agriculture, and glimpse what we must now do to make it right again. It is a terribly important book, and as an evocation of British landscape past and present, it's up there with Cider With Rosie.
James Rebanks is a beautiful writer, in a unique position to describe the challenges currently being faced by farmers throughout the world. English Pastoral is a joy to read and extremely moving - a book which should be read by every citizen.
James Rebanks tells us why Beatrix Potter is the Lake District writer he loves the most in this extract from The Shepherd's Life.