Tanja Berg's Reviews > The Shepherd's Life: A Tale of the Lake District

The Shepherd's Life by James Rebanks
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really liked it
bookshelves: biography-memoir, non-fiction

This is a delightful, well-written, and decidedly unromantic story about farming life. The book is divided into seasons, as is natural, from a farming point of view. The author tells of his life and the book follows a somewhat chronological timeline. What is most fascinating about this, is that it describes a way of life which is - despite modern inventions such as antibiotics - much like it has been for centuries. It's a story not told. It's muck, blood and cold rain. A story of sheep that are "hefted", meaning they will stick to a certain number of hills and stray no further. Some of the people growing up are also "hefted" in a sense, not wanting to be anywhere else.

You have to be deeply rooted in tradition and have a strong sense of meaning to lead a life like this. A life where your life much depends on weather, disease and luck - but above else, hard work.

I once thought that I would like to be a vet, or at the very least, work with horses. So one summer I worked as a groom. That meant 12-13 hours a day, six days a week. It was summer, so the work was comparatively easy, the horses in the fields did not need to be fed. While I was there, there where others who tried their hand at being a groom, and quickly gave up. I had also enough after a summer. In fact, I never went back to horses after this. I also gave up on my dream of being a vet, which in addition to having required some extra classes to have any chance of making a cut, would also mean back-breaking, unromantic work with large animals. So no, a life where a large number of lives would depend on me always getting up on time and going the extra mile - that's not for me.

However, if your family has lived the life of shepherds and farmers for hundreds of years on the same land - well, that does mean something. The hills that you look upon being the same as your forefathers never admired. I can see how keeping this up has value, and I deeply respect the few that still bother with this life. Since most of us don't and have no idea what such a life means, read this book!
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Reading Progress

December 12, 2016 – Shelved
December 12, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
March 14, 2017 – Started Reading
March 14, 2017 – Shelved as: non-fiction
March 14, 2017 – Shelved as: biography-memoir
March 16, 2017 –
page 105
35.84% "A very different kind of memoir, definitely beguiling!"
March 19, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by Margitte (new)

Margitte It is backbreaking work for sure. Very little romance in it. Great review, Tanja.


Tanja Berg Thanks Margitte! My maternal grandparents were farmers. My grandfather walked crooked because he had ruined his back digging ditches to drain fields.


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