Chrissie's Reviews > The Shepherd's Life: A People's History of the Lake District

The Shepherd's Life by James Rebanks
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really liked it
bookshelves: great-britain, fauna, flora, 2017-read, audible-uk

I dithered back and forth between a rating of four or five stars. While listening I marveled over the author's
- beautiful prose.
- ability to make the daily/seasonal chores of sheep farming comprehensible and meaningful.
- ability to movingly interweave a biography of himself and his family with a clear and captivating account of sheep farming in the fells of northwestern England’s Lake District.

Few can explain the fundaments of a job so clearly, so moving and so interestingly. His love of what he does shines through.

In describing these shepherds' way of life he impressed upon me the importance of their role in protecting a valuable landscape, both for the communities within and for the nation as a whole. Shepherding is a way of life and a craft to be valued and protected.

The book moved me deeply. Reebanks makes sheep farming personal. The book is both about shepherding and about his family, his neighbors and his community. Shepherding is a group effort, all relying on each other. It is a family and a community enterprise. It is not something you can do alone. One's worth is earned by hard work, by learning from those who came earlier and by learning from one’s own mistakes and achievements. One's name is built on past actions and to what extent you can be relied on. Cooperation and trust in those worthy of trust are an essential part of the trade. Shepherding is not merely a "job", it is a whole way of life, and Reebanks shows it to us in detail, in an interesting and captivating manner. His daughter at the age of six births a lamb. He merely stands by, gives words of encouragement and guidance. When Reebanks himself was young we watch him learn from his grandfather. We watch as he struggles to gain respect and independence from his father. We watch as his father grows old and sick, each generation replacing the other. What is delivered is both a moving memoir and an informative description of a craft to be valued and respected.

The audiobook is read by Bryan Dick. I loved the narration. I adored it. It was superb. There is faint hint of a dialect that feels genuine. The listener feels the author is telling his own story. We are listening to the author's words, his thoughts and we feel his emotions.

I admire tremendously what the author had done with his life and what he has achieved. When he finally entered Oxford and had to take his first written test he realized he would have to write the exam. He could not write! He had before poked out finger by finger his papers on a typewriter. Yet, I am not rating the man; I am rating a wonderfully written book that is clear, informative and beautifully written.
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Reading Progress

December 11, 2016 – Shelved
December 11, 2016 – Shelved as: wishlist-b
December 11, 2016 – Shelved as: great-britain
December 11, 2016 – Shelved as: fauna
December 11, 2016 – Shelved as: flora
January 28, 2017 – Shelved as: own-unlistened
January 28, 2017 – Shelved as: 2017-read
January 28, 2017 – Shelved as: audible-uk
February 7, 2017 – Started Reading
February 9, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-21 of 21 (21 new)

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message 1: by Diane S ☔ (new) - added it

Diane S ☔ Believe me, I understand.


Chrissie It was such an excellent book that I want to write an adequate review, but I am just not finding the time. ...... Maybe this evening.


message 3: by Barbara (new)

Barbara Nice review, Chrissie. I wonder if he wrote about the dogs, which are such an essential part of shepherding. Their intelligence always intrigued me.


message 4: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan Barbara wrote: "Nice review, Chrissie. I wonder if he wrote about the dogs, which are such an essential part of shepherding. Their intelligence always intrigued me."

Good question. Those dogs are amazing. Well I think all dogs are amazing.


Chrissie Thanks, Barbara and Lisa for reading my review! The book I read is his first one. In this he speaks of his border collies. Training, their importance and the part they play in the shepherding are part of the book, However this book cannot be considered a real "training guide" for shepherding .

The Illustrated Herdwick Shepherd is his second book. In it there are photos of both his sheep, the Herdwick sheep I spoke to you of Lisa, his dogs and the fells. The author works with UNESCO as an expert adviser of sustainable tourism.


message 6: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan If dogs make an appearance, that's a good thing.


message 7: by Chrissie (last edited Feb 10, 2017 10:58PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Chrissie Lisa, sheep farming as it is carried out here is a good not an evil. We do not see eye to eye. You don't seem to have understood that sheep farming gives to the land rather than destroying it. Sheep farming is a group endeavor, for and with people and dogs and sheep! All work together for the good of the whole and for the preservation of the land and culture. I hear your negative attitude and it disturbs me, but fine, think as you will.


message 8: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan Chrissie, We will never see eye to eye about this.


Chrissie Lisa wrote: "Chrissie, We will never see eye to eye about this."

Yeah, but that is OK. I hope you can accept that I think differently. In a true friendship you can be honest enough to say when you disagree.


message 10: by Lisa (last edited Feb 11, 2017 12:51PM) (new)

Lisa Vegan Chrissie, Of course. But I am curious whether you read the links I sent you at the other review, at least the first 2 of 3. I find that when humans make a living/money off something the way they will defend what they're doing and what they say about it and the animals they're using, stretches my mind past where it can ethically go. Anyway, I haven't read this book nor about these people/sheep and since I won't I can argue in only a general way, including how this area affects animal agriculture in the world as a whole, which is enough for me, but not about these very specific sheep. The stories I could tell though about how animal ranchers, farmers, etc. will say they "love" their animals or the animals are being treated well, etc. when the evidence when you look at it apart from what they say is to the contrary. So I'll remain skeptical even without reading. Especially because from what you said it's been a way of life for generations. Of course these people need to see it as a fine thing. Okay, soapbox rant over. I've been reading about similar endeavors for 4 decades and keep reading, so we are not going to agree about this. Friendship intact though..


message 11: by Barbara (new)

Barbara Lisa, I have put your book on my list. It is an intriguing topic.


message 12: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan Barbara wrote: "Lisa, I have put your book on my list. It is an intriguing topic."

What book?


message 13: by Chrissie (last edited Feb 12, 2017 01:51AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Chrissie I read the first two links of the three you posted in message 9 here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show.... Generalizations are made. A generalization is merely a generalization and one should not assume that what happens elsewhere is necessarily done here, just one example is mulesing! Animals should not be ill treated. On that we have no dispute.

All species "use" other species. Given our so -called intelligence we must behave morally. Routines and practices that are reprehensible should be stopped. Those that show respect and consideration for animals should be praised rather than clumsily grouped with all the rest. Such is counterproductive. I will not be part of a movement that makes sweeping statements. I prefer reasoning, improvements and a balanced response.


message 14: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan I prefer not using animals for my benefit. In the U.S. (because cruelty is the norm almost everywhere - and where there is a lack of cruelty I'll save those animal products for those who won't live without them - if I use them then those people will use the cruelty laden versions if those are all that are left) that means as little as possible. So for me I can do it with all food and clothing and personal and household products. I reluctantly take prescription and over the counter drugs. Hate it but do it. We all have our own lines we won't cross.


message 15: by Chrissie (last edited Feb 12, 2017 03:27AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Chrissie Lisa, it is all a matter of where one draws limits.If one carries your philosophy through we have no right to even have a pet. We have no right to "use" dogs to comfort those in hospitals ..... and I know you support such. You can say but that doesn't harm the animals, and I am saying exactly that too. Don't misuse animals. I also insist one must not make sweeping assumptions or condemnations that are unfair. Improve what needs to be improved on the basis of solid information.


message 16: by Barbara (last edited Feb 12, 2017 07:26AM) (new)

Barbara Lisa, please excuse my error. It seems that Chrissie mentioned, The Illustrated Herdwick Shepherd , not you.


Chrissie Barbara, yep, that was me!


message 18: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan No problem, Barbara.

Glad the book was so good, Chrissie.


message 19: by Chrissie (last edited Feb 12, 2017 10:31PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Chrissie Lisa wrote: "Glad the book was so good, Chrissie."

Yep, Lisa, it was for ME. ;0) Remember I am fine with your thinking differently than me on where we draw our lines. As I said in message 9, true friends must be able to honestly speak of differences.


message 20: by Amy (new)

Amy Can I just add in here for Lisa that if a decreasing amount of people are buying these organically and cruelty free animal products, they will earn less and less profits. They become discouraged, bump up prices and that only makes it worse. Those farming honestly and organically are left with much to say for their efforts. So, not buying these products ultimately hurts the people doing things properly. I'm definitely not trying to convert you to use these products but I think it would be great if those who have the income to afford these products and support them, did. The more that people support them, the more these honest farmers can collect the profits in order to continue their ways.


message 21: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan Amy, That's definitely true for people who would eat these foods anyway, but not true for people like me who will not under any circumstances eat them.


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