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The Plot: A Biography of an English Acre Hardcover – 5 Oct 2009

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books; First Edition edition (5 Oct. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847080855
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847080851
  • Product Dimensions: 16.6 x 3.2 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 52,791 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

'She paints a vivid, poignant picture of a corner of England, precious to her' - Simon Jenkins
-- Review

`Madeleine Bunting's book is full of engaging stories, imaginatively researched and written with great tenderness' - Edward Stourton
-- Review

Review

`Madeleine Bunting's book is full of engaging stories, imaginatively researched and written with great tenderness' - Edward Stourton

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Sensible Cat on 1 Oct. 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Throughout the turbulent twentieth century, the English countryside served idealists and romantics as a "theatre of dreams" - an idealised space where time had stood still, suburbia had been excluded and craftspeople continued to find personal fulfillment working with their hands in villages that had remained unchanged for centuries. Madeleine Bunting's father went further than most in imposing this vision on his family. The North Yorkshire plot of land he leased in 1958 and used to build a highly personal chapel, a showcase for his sculptures and a focus for his unspoken but fervent Catholicism, was a place that aroused conflicting emotions in his family, and after his death in 2002 Bunting realized that if she was ever to truly understand him she would have to understand the Plot and its many historical associations.

So this book is a memoir, the story of a parent who must have been very hard to live with, whose aspirations made an uncomfortable fit with the realities of family life and the conflicting demands on the rural landscape in postwar England. It's a kind of exorcism, deeply personal but made universal and political by Bunting's intelligence and the research and writing skills she has acquired through a successful career in journalism. It's not a linear narrative by any means; the way the focus shifts from family picnics to Cistercian monks, from moths to the woes of modern farmers, could collapse into chaos in less accomplished hands. But in the second section, "War", the picture comes into focus and she draws together the threads of personal and collective memory.

Her father first discovered the Plot on a highly significant date - 6th June, 1944.
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By M. Dowden HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 29 Sept. 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Madeleine Bunting wanted to find out more about her late father, John Bunting, the sculptor and art teacher, what motivated and drove him. In doing so she decided to look at the plot of land that he bought at Scotch Corner and why he built a chapel on it.

What we are given is part biography and part history as she delves further into the land. This may not sound like everyones cup of tea - but what we are given here is something highly interesting and thought provoking. Not only does Bunting show what has happened on the plot of land itself over the millennia but also what has happened in the surrounding area. From drovers passing through and monks starting a community we also have the battle between Robert the Bruce and Edward II, which led to the latters ignominous escape. This area of land doesn't just show local history but some of the more broader aspects which have shaped the history of the British Isles. We are forced to think about what is real untamed wild land and what is really shaped by man, indeed so much that we take as the natural land has actually been made by us over the centuries. From this we also have to think about how we use the land and what impact our actions can have with any changes that become apparent climate change.

Farming has always been difficult in this part of North Yorkshire and with people willing to buy up farmhouses as weekend retreats and farmers trying to survive we are shown the problems of this area, also what effect has been made by tourism and those who shoot grouse. I must admit that I wasn't sure whether I would really like this book when I got it but after starting it I was fully immersed and absorbed, and was really glad that I ordered it. Admittedly this is never going to be a huge seller but if you like such tv programmes as 'Coast' and 'Countryfile', or just history you will probably enjoy this.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Morena VINE VOICE on 28 Sept. 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
After the death of her father, Guardian columnist Madeleine Bunting set herself the task of getting to know him, the land he loved and the ideas that informed his life, by writing this book, The Plot. It is the story of a one-acre plot on the Yorkshire moors (Scotch Corner, but not, as I thought for the first few chapters, *the* Scotch Corner service station on the A1!), and the surrounding area. It's also the story of a difficult man, his family life, hopes and dreams; and it's the story of how his daughter comes to something of an understanding and acceptance of him.

John Bunting bought the Plot as an idealistic young man, rejecting his suburban origins and determined to carve out an alternative life on his own terms. On it, he built a Catholic war memorial chapel, and a habitable hut, while raising his family five miles down the road in a village cottage.

Madeleine Bunting intertwines her father's relationship to the Plot with wider themes relevant to its history - companionship, war and change. We zoom in on the details, and then zoom out again to contemplate the abstract. I'm always fascinated by details of everyday life in history, so I enjoyed reading about the drovers' roads which went from the Scottish Highlands down to London, and the old occupations and ways of life which went with them - I could picture the farmhouses lit up on a dark moorland night, the cattle secured outside as the drovers bought their ale and waited for the blacksmith to shoe some livestock, glowing sparks flying. More universally, for example, she discusses the idea of landscape and the increasing dominance of vision over the other senses.

The latter third of the book examines the social changes of the twentieth century.
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