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A Place of Refuge: An Experiment in Communal Living – The Story of Windsor Hill Wood Hardcover – 2 Jul 2015
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This is no Hollywood-style tale of redemption and transformation. It is something much more honest: a warts-and-all account of what it is like to try a radically different way of living, and to not only survive, but have real triumphs . . . Thanks to Jones's sense of humour the book rarely feels "worthy", in the pejorative sense, despite the subject matter . . . Admirably erudite, charming and reflective . . . To read this book is to imagine, even if only briefly, that a different way of living might be possible. (Alice O'Keefe Guardian)
Fascinating and remarkable . . . a study of compassion in action (Sunday Times)
This is an enjoyable book (Mail on Sunday)
[I was] Amused and moved by this book . . . The Joneses' desire to rescue lost people is both magnificent and astonishing (The Times)
Chosen as a summer read by Julian Baggini (Observer)
Extremely gripping and moving . . . Often very funny . . . Jones writes beautifully about the changing seasons . . . Each night I looked forward to reading this book. Clearly there is something in our psychological make-up that longs to be part of an 'extended household', breaking bread with strangers. Or - at least - to experience it voyeuristically through the pages of a captivating memoir (Independent)
There is much beauty in the story of Windsor Hill Wood, the rural idyll that Jones and Fra create together. He manages to take us with him into it . . . Jones is a sublime writer, who has the ability to bring tears to the eye (Daily Telegraph)
It's a gentle meditation on a brave venture that leaves the reader uplifted and even a little enlightened (Press Association)
It is Jones's humanity and gift for characterisation that make his book so captivating . . . His account rings with universal truths . . . A Place of Refuge asks difficult questions about how often mental illness is connected with the fact that 'community', as it's currently understood, is delivered through a screen (Financial Times)
A wonderful book describing the bosky - sometimes bolshie - community he and his wife set up for allcomers: recovering alcoholics, addicts and anoxerics. It is written with the keenest eye for nature - human and leafy - and a wisdom learned the hard way (perhaps there is no other way) (Kate Kellaway Observer)
About the Author
Tobias Jones is the author of four non-fiction books, Blood on the Altar, The Dark Heart of Italy, Basilitica and Utopian Dreams; and the Castagnetti crime trilogy, The Salati Case, White Death and Death of a Showgirl. He has worked as a journalist in Britain for the London Review of Books, the Independent on Sunday and the Observer; and in Italy, producing two political documentary series for the Italian state broadcaster RAI 3. He lives at Windsor Hill Wood in Somerset with his wife and three children where he runs a working farm refuge.
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Love is not easy, but this is a well written, lucid account of an experiment in communal living, admirable in many ways and raising many pertinent questions about the choices we have in living in society.
As I read it I kept thinking of Findhorn. Years ago, when Findhorn was in its early years, I read a number of books about the struggles people went through there. Both communities combine a spiritual perspective with fairly rigorous attention to discipline.
In the case of "A Place of Refuge" the evident goal seems to me to be a desire to keep an open door to anyone in need and not to reject people no matter how apparently difficult their problems seem. An educated Christianity and widespread practical research into communal living were the inspiration for the author and his wife, whereas at Findhorn the principle was to follow the inner guidance achieved through meditation and the practical endeavour was the construction of a garden and the search for spiritual understanding. Very different on the surface but the continual self-questioning and search for a sensitive but strong discipline were present in both cases.
To me one of the stories the book tells is the gradual evolution in the skillset of the author and the others in how they dealt with the issues presented by the stream of residents and guests. I was a social worker for nearly thirty years, and believe that there is enormous wisdom in this book. Towards the end the community was host to people diagnosed with bipolar disorder, eating disorders, self-harm, and a variety of psychoses.
Jones's list of revered communities that he had researched include the Philadelphia and Soteria communities which specialised in mental health issues, and his practice seems to me to chime well with theirs.
"NHS staff referred us countless 'clients' going through schizophrenic or psychotic episodes for whom they felt they could do nothing. It often seemed that their only solution was to prescribe, and distribute, industrial quantities of neuroleptics. They were therefore amazed when they visited and saw their patients contentedly integrating into a community, having decided to stop their anti-psychotics."
Tell me about it.
This is fantastic work, and a fantastic book.
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Most recent customer reviews
Upon reading the ups and downs of the experience, it could have been subtitled, No Good Deed Goes Unpunished!
I think it was a cheap money...Read more