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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars

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on 5 April 2017
I really enjoyed this book. I read it when I was recovering from a chest infection and viral bronchitis and it took my mind off how dreadful. I felt
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on 24 February 2007
I heard 'snippets' of this while on the road in my job when it was featured in a recent Book of the Week on Radio 4 and I instantly struck by its charm - so I bought the book.

Well I've just finished it & I honestly think it's one of the most enjoyable reading experiences I've had in a very long time. It tells the story of Horatio's parents decision to leave London & set up home in a very remote Welsh hillside sheep farm.

It is really the story of a remarkable woman Jenny, (Horatio Clare's mother), who is completely and passionately obsessed with her desire to suceed in the toughest of environments, doing a job traditionally the domaine of men who have the benefit of years of family history & experience.

Jenny & her new husband, Robert arrive, virtual novices and throw themselves into the challenge of several lifetimes trying to keep themselves & their stock alive.

The challenges leave the couple no time for leisure or life as a 'couple' and the marriage inevitably fails. Robert returns to his life in London, leaving Jenny to continue farming alone, helped by her two young sons and an ageing neighbour.

It is partly the story of the unrelenting harshness of the hardest of farming environments, made utterly enchanting due to Jenny's absolute love of her animals and nature and her dedication to the task, which is also to give her boys a magical childhood.

The story is told by Horatio Clare who has a delicate touch - the story is his, but it is told in a objective way which makes you forget it is his life and mother he is describing. His ability to appreciate the beauty and convey it so wonderfully is a constant testament to his mother's passion and enthusiasm which never wanes, no matter how awful life becomes for them at times. You want to read & reread whole chapters, so beautiful is the writing.

If I were an English teacher, I would be using this book to encourage and inspire children to understand the beauty and power of words and nature.

Though Jenny eventually and reluctantly leaves the farm, she does so having achieved her mission; Horatio leaves you in no doubt that he and his brother have been blessed with the most passionate and inspiring of upbringings a child could ever have.
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on 15 April 2008
I almost didn't bother reviewing Running for the Hills, as I assumed it would have a least 100 5 star reviews and wouldn't need my contribution, so was surprised to see several one star reviews. If you read this book solely for the action, then it's going to disapopint. And yes, sheep feature frequently (but as it's set on a hill farm and not in outer space you might have guessed this from the start). But this book doesn't enchant for the intricacies of plotting or cliff-hanger action, but for the sheer quality of the prose. I must admit to a few qualms when Clare fictionalised his parents' relationship, writing in a memoir about events that took place before he wasn't born, but it's so beautifully written that you are absorbed into the sweep of the narrative and the qualms are forgotten. I also liked the overall tone - quite the opposite of misery lit - he obviously has great affection for his parents while clearly seeing their faults. Such a change from the bitterness of Bad Blood, to give another example of literary memoir. Overall, a most enjoyable read, and I'm looking forward to his next one.
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on 4 December 2014
Very interesting read
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on 12 May 2016
Overall I enjoyed this book but mainly because I live nearby (and used to live very close) to the setting. On which subject why is this kept such a secret? It seems to me that their village is Llanbedr, their town Crickhowell, and their school Llangynidr. I would make a stab at the holding being Milaid Uchaf. I think if I had been given this info I would have enjoyed the book more and could have imagined more of the context. I still know many people dotted around there and guess some appear in this book under pseudonyms.

I'm a bit bemused by the rapturous reviews! The writing is competent but not sensational as the cover reviews would suggest, and it does plod from time to time.

But I would be happy to recommend this to anyone who wants a very interesting account of a town family moving to the country and ultimately failing to engage with it.
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on 20 April 2017
I encountered this book after listening to a very positive review on BBC Radio 4.
It is the story of a family who give up living on London, to try to find a more peaceful environment, and end up buying and living on a rather remote sheep farm on a mountain in South Wales.
It is a tender, and honest memoir about the bleakness, beauty, and at times primitive life on a working farm.
The author writes well with a keen eye for observations on nature, and his family.
Not all goes well or to plan, but it is wonderful to open this book, and be transported to the farm for a while.
I enjoyed it immensely and recommend it highly. I'm only slightly disappointed there are no photos of the family, friends and the farm.
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on 20 March 2006
I've just this minute finished reading this memoir and I had to write a review to say how much I enjoyed it. It is a memoir about Horatio Clare's mother and father and their hill farm in rural Wales. It charts his parents love and marriage and their separation taken from his parents diaries and letters and his own memory. At the fore is his mother, Jenny whose policy Live and Let Live allows such beauty to run wild over the dilapidated old house and the farm. She is a strong and passionate woman whose love for nature and animals (espcially her beloved sheep) makes the old farm a magical place for her two sons to grow up in and also inspires them. You can clearly see this in the authors writing, his love of the farm and his admiration for his mother. A very charming and beautiful book which gets better and better the more you read.
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on 29 March 2006
Despite a friend's strong recommendation, I couldn't see how I'd enjoy a boy's memories of ill sheep, poverty, and a dilapidated farm in South Wales. How wrong I was. Horatio Clare's story is candid, heartbreaking and spell-binding. At times I even laughed out loud; (this book must be read for the quark story alone). Running For The Hills will stay with you long after you've finished the final pages. Just wonderful.
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on 25 January 2006
I first came across Horatio Clare's writing in magazines and mentally bookmarked the name, not that it's one you're likely to forget. He's published some trvael writing, on Morocco, I think, but this is is his first book, a sort of novelised memoir of his parents' divorce. It's set partly in London, his father's domain, but mostly on a Welsh hill farm. His parents acquired it as a retreat from London, but it soon becomes clear that his mother's investment in it is of diferent kind from his father's. A romantic of the full-flavour variety there's an irresistible pull to her attachement to the country and the hard life it obliges from those who settle there, even harder if you're a London literary type with two blonde haired little boys called Horatio and Alexander (funny scene in the primary school where they have to announce their names to an incredulous room of Hywels and Sioneds). And what of her husband, who has to earn a living, and for whom it seems the wild hill life is a colourful backdrop rather than home? As she and her boys are drawn into a beautiful and wild life there we too are drawn in, captivated by marvellous nature writing, by their risk-taking, by the remoteness of their locale and most movingly by the wrenching of their father from the picture. There's a heartbreaking scene when the young Horatio, on furlough in London, realises his father has finally gone. How do boys grow up without a father on the scene? What does a wild place do to the imaginations of children? What kind of enchantments belong to what kind of places?
I loved this book. It has all the virtues (and some of the vices - overwriting calsm down as the narrative proceeds) of a first novel from an exciting new writer.
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HALL OF FAMEon 18 June 2013
Like some other reviewers here, I bought Horatio Clare's memoir after reading some of his writing in newspapers/radio and finding it unusually well-written. I'm so glad I did, because Running For the Hills is an exceptional piece of work.

It recounts the author's harsh but idyllic childhood in the Black Mountains, where his parents, and then just his mother Jenny, farmed. Clare evokes the remoteness and beauty of "really faraway Wales" in prose which never tips over into lushness or affectation. He makes you see and feel the fungus on trees, the birds, the damp, the heroism, the neighbours and the sheep. It really is like a cross between Dylan Thomas and Ted Hughes ion its strong sens of the "particular magic" of a place, but woven into it is also a child's eye view of his parents' disintegrating marriage and a moving account of his mother's formidable courage. It would make a very good film, not least because it's in some ways a British Jean de Florette in parts.
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