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A Place In My Country: In Search Of A Rural Dream [Paperback]

Ian Walthew
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 May 2008
Chasing memories of the losses of his brother and father, the author, a young newspaper director, and his Australian wife visit the Cotswolds. On a whim they buy a cottage and Ian resigns. They slowly get to know Norman, their inscrutable and apparently terrifying neighbour; Geoff, the ebullient landlord of their eclectic local - last bastion against the encroaching gastropub - and Tom, an ex-gamekeeper, who lets Ian see something of a hidden rural culture. The delightful aspects of village life and an ever-changing landscape is evocatively captured; but it is from working with Norman on his small chaotic farm that they learn about the loss of the countryside to industrial farming and of no-longer affordable housing to the dreaded 'white settlers'. And it is shadows of the past and a seemingly segregated social world around them that begin to cast doubts on whether this is the place for them. This is a gentle lesson in taking time to confront our losses, memories and prejudices to discover a revitalised life in our own country.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix (1 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753823888
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753823880
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 327,973 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ian Walthew was born in England and has lived in France since 2005. After completing a post-graduate degree in international relations from the University of Amsterdam, Ian worked in the newspaper industry in Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris, working for the Dutch financial daily Het Financieele Dagblad and the International Herald Tribune. In 2000 he returned to England after 10 years abroad, ended his newspaper career and unexpectedly moved to the Cotswolds. His critically acclaimed book A PLACE IN MY COUNTRY, about his return to England and his time in the Cotswolds, was published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in 2007. A new Kindle edition of A PLACE IN MY COUNTRY was published by Bagshawe Books in January 2015. His novel, THE COMPLEX CHEMISTRY OF LOSS, was published by Bagshawe Books in December 2014 and is available as a limited edition hard copy (from www.bagshawe.co.uk/books) or as an e-book for Kindle.

For more information or to contact him directly, please visit www.ianwalthew.com

Product Description


"[Walthew's] beautifully written book is an elegy for an England that is dying" (Max Davidson DAILY TELEGRAPH)

"Avoiding the usual bland elegy for the rustic and redemptive, his book is a valuable memoir, both personal and social, a meditation on belonging in one of many Englands." (OBSERVER)

"a hard-edged and moving account of life in rural Britain today" (SUNDAY TIMES)

"Compelling and often deeply moving...Walthew has a genuine gift for bringing both people and places to life and marshals his runaway real life narratives with a novelist's skill." (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall)

"I read A Place in My Country with absolute unalloyed delight. A glorious book." (Jeremy Irons)

"he finds a farming heartbeat that is proud and defiant, defended by a cast of characters that outshine The Archers. A revelation of a book" (Tim Butcher, author Blood River)

"affecting and inspiring memoir...required reading for anyone who claims to know or love this country" (FINANCIAL TIMES)

"Funny, touching and ultimately very moving, this is a beautiful, unsentimental account of a personal loss that is reflected in the rapidly changing texture of life in rural England." (Clover Stroud SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)

"a riveting read" (COUNTRY LIFE)

"The book is a fascinating snapshot. All of life is here - birth, death, struggles with illness, hard work, lots of laughter. It will make you smile gently to yourself, laugh out loud, shed a quiet tear and feel angry at the changes happening in our countryside." (NFU'S COUNTRYSIDE MAGAZINE)

"This is a great book, if you like to have your misconceptions about our land thoroughly challenged." (BBC COUNTRYFILE MAGAZINE)

"Well written and well constructed, this is an enjoyable, funny, often poignant book, and one that will resonate with many New Zealanders." (CHRISTCHURCH PRESS)

From the Author

This is a story of two journeys, my own, but within a much larger one, that of the English countryside. It is but a brief moment in time in one tiny patch of Albion, a country I am proud to be from. I have tried to be as truthful and accurate as my understanding at the time and my memory allows, given that I never set out to write this book when I moved there. I have changed all names, many geographical indicators and some minor incidental details (as well as excluding many experiences and conversations at the request of some of those who appear within this story), to afford at least a degree of privacy in a process which I am fully aware is deeply intrusive. On very few occasions I have merged an incident, or a conversation or two, for reasons of brevity or discretion. My apologies for any unintended misrepresentations or offence in trying to paint one small corner of that very much larger, ever changing picture that is the English countryside.
I am neither an academic nor a journalist, so this book was never intended to provide either a complete or an entirely balanced view of even a few hundred acres of England. Indeed, in my decision to buy what was once the home of an agricultural labourer, I was no neutral observer; in fact I was a participant in some of the problems that I describe. Nor am I an expert on farming or modern estate management; nor do I offer any real solutions to the problems facing the lives of country people.
There are many voices I did not hear, many people I did not meet, and many things I have learned since; there is yet more I am still to understand.
Mostly, though, I hope I will take the reader to a world that, for all its mutability, is nonetheless how I like to think of England: regions of breathless beauty, full of devilment, humour and rich untold histories.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
By Dante
As much as I am a lover of the countryside, when I first picked up "A Place In My Country," I wondered how well I (an urban dwelling, non-British person) would relate to what appeared to be the day-to-day observations of living in a corner of rural England. Before reading this book, I found the Cotswolds a picturesque patchwork (when the sun shines) worthy of a thousand paintings with charming little stone buildings that would make nice film sets, a short getaway for adults in need of a little R&R. By the time I finished, I found myself identifying with the characters, the authors experiences, and the more general problems of the village inhabitants who find themselves priced out of homeownership and even rented housing in the place they have called home all their life. I came away with a deeper understanding and empathy for the struggles of those who work and make a living from the land of this beautiful countryside. In this sense, the book has a universal appeal and relevance.

As a lover of the genre of books about people who have picked up to live in lands foreign to them, I was also curious about what happens when one goes back to ones home country (as the author does) after being gone so long. I must admit that I have lived outside my home country for over ten years and am yet to move back, if ever. But even those who have left their hometown, if not their country, and returned years later could identify with the author's alienation and then reconciliation with the ghost version of ourselves that still live there.

Personally I would have liked the author to write more openly of the death of his father and brother earlier in the book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than the Archers 7 Mar 2009
When I picked up this book in my local library I wondered if it would be like all the other "escape" books I had read, most of them set in rural France or amoungst the olive groves in Greece.However after the first chapter I realized that this was different.
I instantly became very involved with the local characters,Norman the farmer next door at first appeared aloof and odd,but soon I got to know him and realized how hardworking and honest he really was.It was the same with the others, as the story unfolded I got to know them well.
The descriptions of the seasons in the country was so real that I could feel the warmth of summer or the bleakness of the winter months, I could picture the surrounding land and got to know the lanes where the Author did his morning run.
On a personal note I didnt always agree with the writers opinions, for example Canal Restoration, something I have been involved with and support but that didnt deter me from enjoying the book.
I began to share the familys everyday achievments and anxietys, when they were worried about possibly leaving Lettem I felt all their emotions, it was so real!
An excellent realistic description of the life and dreams of living in rural England.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly readable, relevant memoir 16 Sep 2008
By Mrs. K. A. Wheatley TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
This must be a difficult book to market. It starts out with a simple enough premise, as described in the synopsis. High flying business man succumbs to a breakdown, chucks up his international jet setter ways and heads off to the rural Cotswolds to find himself. So far, so average you may think, but not really.

This is not one of those run of the mill 'hilarious' we bought a grape farm with tuppence and imagine our surprise when the cat fell down the well and we couldn't speak the lingo to get her out, my how we laughed type things. It is much meatier, much darker, and much, much richer than that.

Walthew is to all intents and purposes writing an elegy, for the father and brother he lost at an early age and whose loss shapes the entire narrative of both the book and his life, and for the country of his birth. Also, I think, a little for himself, the man he shaped himself to be, the man he knew finding himself broken and ignorant of what it means to truly be alive and who learns slowly and painfully over the duration of the book.

It is a simple book, well written, profound and a real pleasure to read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A work of great feeling 19 Oct 2008
A Place in My Country is a rare and touching work of genuine experience and thoughtful prose. Warm, friendly and involving, the reader might well find themselves feeling more deeply for the writer's experiences, the characters and the state of the English countryside than they realised they might. A joy to return to each time and a book that will stay with you long after you've finished savouring every page.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Take this one on holiday with you! 12 May 2008
Really touching and heartfelt tale of someone searching for their own identity and sense of homeland. Thoroughly enjoyable and well written. Cannot recommend it enough.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Place in My Country 15 July 2008
A Place in My Country is Ian Walthew's memoir of leaving the hustle and bustle of the big city and business behind and moving to a slower, less frantic pace of life with his wife in a cottage in the Cotswolds, England. Ian and his wife Han waste no time in getting to know their new neighbours, fellow villagers and the local pub landlord and soon make good friends with Norman, the robust, down-to-earth farmer next door and Tom, a gamekeeper and all-round country gent. Ian also embarks on a journey of therapeutic self discovery as he remembers his childhood and recovers memories of the father and brother he lost at a young age while he and his wife prepare for and welcome the arrival of their new, longed-for daughter.

I enjoyed reading this book. I can't tell a lie, it took some time to grab me but once it did I finished it quite rapidly. Something about the initial move to the countryside just didn't seem to hold my attention for long periods of time to start with, but once Ian and Han had been firmly established in the village and had been welcomed into the neighbourhood I felt as though their new friends were my new friends. The author did such a good job of bringing them to life through his words, I cared about them just as you could tell, Ian and Han cared about Norman, Douglas, Tom and the rest of the village. I cared so much that I was brought to tears on no less than four occasions. Living in a small village myself, a lot of the shock of moving from a hectic city to the country life struck chords with me. The author also informs the reader of issues facing country dwellers and farmers without hammering them over the head with a biased point of view and when I finished reading this book I felt I had learned a lot about life in the English countryside.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars wisdom of life?
Not just another "live in a new place - change your life" type of book but one which I found very thought-provoking. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Joyce
5.0 out of 5 stars A sparkling gem
This is a most enthralling account. Ian Walthew brings all the characters to life,in "A Place in my Country", in a way that makes you feel that you almost know them. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Carl Johnston
5.0 out of 5 stars Tensions and Joys of English Country Living
I have just finished reading "A Place in my Country" and was very impressed by it. It is terrific. I was in tears some of the time (the death of the dog and the Nativity in the... Read more
Published on 27 April 2012 by Christine296
4.0 out of 5 stars The Rural Idyll
When I mentioned to a friend in the U.K. that my Australian wife and I would be selling our house in Sydney and moving to the U.K. Read more
Published on 11 April 2012 by Mr Martin J Pooley
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
This is a book that really needs to be read. I emailed the author, Ian, shortly after finishing it with the below text, I think you'll get the picture:

I just wanted to... Read more
Published on 20 Feb 2012 by MattPettitt
5.0 out of 5 stars If Your Job is Destroying You
If you have ever worked in a job that is slowly (or quickly) destroying you, then you will resonate to Ian Walthew's account of what he did about it. Read more
Published on 20 Jun 2011 by T. E. Fevin
4.0 out of 5 stars Painful and accurate
Living in this are of the Cotswolds, it was enjoyable attempting to match up the fictional people and places with the real ones. Read more
Published on 12 May 2011 by Hamlet's ghost
5.0 out of 5 stars Poignant and Funny
This is a highly enjoyable book. It is the true story of the author and his wife living in the English countryside (the Cotswolds) for two years, not as weekenders but as members... Read more
Published on 9 May 2011 by Stuart Farr
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful & deeply insightful account into the demise of rural...
As we are travelling from Australia to the UK this June for three wonderful months of exploration, I wanted some literature to read relating to the scenic and historical delights... Read more
Published on 6 April 2011 by ShaniCat
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding telling of one mans challenge that reflects the state of...
I was drawn to A Place in My Country for a variety of reasons. I'm from the country myself, indeed I was born and brought up not far from where the events in this book take place,... Read more
Published on 14 Jan 2011 by Andy
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