First published over 60 years ago, Adrian Bell's classic tale of country life describes a working apprenticeship on a farm at Weston Colville.
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The book follows his coming to terms with a new lifestyle and a radically different culture, the farming environment and the seasonal way of rural life, often with touching and comical results.
By the end of the novel the reader is caught up into his hopes for the future, the purchase of his own small farm and his love for the rhythm of the natural world, the farm and the community.
A fascinating account of a now-lost world; the change of farming methods and the changing post-war world is captured before their demise.
Followed by The Cherry Tree and Silver Lea.
Bell's autobiographical novel is a serious meditation on the farmer's profession and of the Suffolk type in particular - both vanishing even as he wrote. A powerful, but never overpowering, defence of the humanity of traditional agricultural methods can be found in every chapter: "we, the humans, were vital parts of the machinery...agriculture needs legs and arms."
As we go back further into the past, all novels will invariably seem more 'pastoral'; the societies more organic, the reliance upon nature more fundamental. Nature, in short, seems more natural. Bell's style, however, is far more typical of 'cold pastoral': against Bell's best efforts to assure the reader otherwise, this first novel has the flavour (and occasional condescension) of the travelogue. For all this, Bell's nostalgaic anecdotes are wittily contrasted against the pragmatic approach of the Suffolk locals and yokels, and it is a pleasant read, if not as tightly plotted as other retrospective narratives of this hue, such as Laurie Lee's 'Cider With Rosie' and L.P. Hartley's 'The Go-Between'.
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