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on 10 February 2007
I own a 1987 copy of 'Lifting the Latch' and is without doubt the best book I have ever read on rural life in England. Sheila Stewart has done a first class job, not once does she interupt or give an opinion (other editors please note), she just lets Mont Abbott tell his story. I like the way she writes Mont's spoken words as he actually says them and not as they should be spelt, ie ockard for awkward (a word I've always used my self, even though I'm from South Oxfordshire). Also Mont's attitude to difficult situations is something that todays generation should try, 'Us got used to it'.

Mont's story proves that that you do not need lots of material things to be happy in life.
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on 10 October 2009
The interest in the story lies, for me, in its factual base. It is the story of a man who lived worked and died in the small community north of Oxford. Not only is it an account of the social history of the time but the events that happen in this individual's life are almost unbearable and yet he still manages to carry on as if they are his 'lot in life' and that life must go on. I was moved and at times shocked by this man's life story. I really enjoyed it and went straight on to read the Ramlin Rose canal story. Well done to Sheila Stewart for offering some insight into the lives of these 'ordinary' people woven into a story and in this case based on hours of factual interviews.
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VINE VOICEon 12 March 2006
Another incredibly well told story from Sheila Stewart! I got a copy of this book after reading 'ramlin rose'. Once more, Sheila Stewart has succeeded in evoking the magic of ordinary lives, in relating the story of Old Mont Abbott. Without sentimentality, Ms Stewart perfectly captures her subject and the harshness of his life as a shepherd in rural Oxfordshire. I am sorry I discovered this book only lately, even though it isn't really the sort of book I would normally seek out. Sheila Stewart is a fine writer and I will be looking for more of her books in future. I can't praise her highly enough!
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on 8 May 2011
This is a moving book about a wonderful, albeit ordinary man. Sheila Stewart demonstrates the immense value of oral history in providing real insight into the recent past. It opens of a vista of a rural life so different from today in good and bad ways. It was very tough, leading to heartbreaking tragedy in the case of Mont Abbott. His resilience, decency and humor shine through, making this a thoroughly rewarding read.
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on 12 June 2012
This is an amazing book, the true story of a 'clathopper' (land worker) born near the start of the 20th century. Not only does it tell his own story, which is fascinating and sometimes heartbreaking without ever being mawkish or self-regarding; but it also tells of the changes in methods of agriculture and shepherding over the last century. This last is a valuable historic record, and may yet have some instructional value for today's farmers. I found it impossible to put down, and it lingers in the memory - definitely one to be re-read at a later date.
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on 23 December 2011
Sheila Stewart is to be warmly congratulated on bringing Mont Abbott to life. He was an ordinary farmhand who spent his entire life in a corner of Oxfordshire. He took a week's holiday with friends but found that "two days is enough for a week's holiday" and hightailed it back to the farmland he knew and loved. He was an expert with horses and sheep and his dogs were special friends. He suffered two catastrophic traumas but squared his shoulders and moved on after each. What made this ordinary farmhand an extraordinary person was his sheer goodness and generosity of spirit. I can imagine God saying "This time I really nailed it".
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on 26 January 2013
This story is wonderfully well told by Shelia Stewart and it is a credit to her for letting us all in on this amazing life. It's hard to believe how much our world has changed and how much we now take for granted, and this book, and Mont's words, take us to another place.

But simply that things are different and people and places have changed would be to sell this terribly short. In essences this is about the human condition and in that respect nothing has changed. We all have it in ourselves to live with the values so dear to Mont Abbott's heart. Somehow this individual managed to keep a focus on life despite the highs and lows of his life. There is no preaching there are just the actions, attitude and behaviour of one individual.

In short this is a story that inspires you to be a better person and to take stock of your circumstances. Thank you Shelia Stewart; what an inspirational book!
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on 26 March 2012
This is a delightful yet shocking account of life in rural Engalnd at a time that is now lost to us except through the words of those who were there.
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on 16 April 2016
[edit]

You know how, when a friend presses a book on you ‘because you’ll love it’, you almost don’t want to read it; you already have a stack of unread volumes teetering by your bedside and weren’t looking to borrow another one just now. So you put it aside and, coming across it 3 months later, open it guiltily, intending to skim it before returning it to the poor friend who by now wants it back... and then are absolutely hooked. So hooked that the last thing you want to do is read it quickly; you want to take time to absorb every tiny detail, every ring of Montgomery Abbott’s voice that Sheila Stewart has captured so beautifully.
Born in Oxford in 1902, Old Mont recounts his life growing up in a tiny cottage in Enstone before spending a long, hardworking life bound to the land, as a farm labourer and later on, shepherd. I expected a prosaic read with some interesting historical detail: what I got was a vivid, lovingly-observed memoir from a man whose greatness of soul left me with no words to describe it. Old Mont’s voice bursts from the page with such warmth, freshness and a vision frequently poetic, that I can’t tell where his account ends and Sheila Stewart’s masterful shaping of it begins. Mont’s good humour, kindness, appetite for hard manual labour (and I mean, hard) and sheer stoicism in the face of some really awful luck (minor setbacks and heartbreaking tragedy are met equally with his cheerful ‘Us’ll get over it’) had me often in tears. Of all the books read in 2015, this is the one that has stayed with me most and I can’t stop telling everyone about it.
Which just shows that my friend was spot on.
 The Tragickall History of Henry Fowst
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on 21 March 2016
This is the most beautiful book I have read for years. I haven't been able to stop talking about it and recommending it to others. Mont Abbott was such an inspirational man. He had so few material possessions and he suffered some severe blows in his life and yet he just kept on going with his pride, dignity, decency and sense of humour intact. Anyone who reads this will feel they knew the man personally or certainly wish that they had and will feel a great sense of loss that he is no longer alive. He himself felt he had had a life of riches and, compared with the lives so many of us lead these days, I think he was probably right.
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