Better Eggs'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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it was ok
bookshelves: 2018-100-reviews, 2018-read, dnf-or-never-read, popculture-anthropology, reviewed

The book started off badly for me. Apart from too much Wordsworth - I suffered through him in school, it was the author's attitude, that of an inverted snob. It seemed he had never got over his schooling where he was not academic and had no desire to travel anywhere and no ambition to do anything but what his father and grandfather had done before him. The teachers, and he felt, quite correctly, that society holds up those who want to go away to university and 'make something' of their lives that is not a manual trade close to home as somehow better than the stay-at-home traditionalist manual workers.

So he has internalised this and holds his way of life up as "better" and has a strongly anti-intellectual bias. Some of the cleverest people he has known, he tells us, are almost illiterate. I don't disbelieve, it's the attitude. We are all fulfilled by different things in life, and if we have the choice, as he did, then all choices are equal, none are inherently superior to the other.

I'm trying to understand this attitude. The author went to Oxford in his twenties, which accounts for the writing, but did he do it despite his praise for those who reject a formal education in favour of experience-based learning in a very limited arena, or because of it? Did he come to realise that there was more to the world and it didn't make him better or worse if he went for it? (view spoiler)

I kept reading hoping the book would be revelatory in some way, although I come from sheep farming country myself so I do actually know about sheep and sheep dogs quite closely (they used to get into the garden, along with cows, foxes and the hunt. The hunt paid for damage, the farmers did not). It's probably quite a good book, it's quite well written, but I can't deal with the author's attitude and continual sniping anti-intellectual comments.

1 star, because I did not enjoy it at all and dnf'd it at 100 pages, but an additional 1 star because it was very well-written.
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Reading Progress

November 7, 2018 – Shelved
November 15, 2018 – Started Reading
November 16, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-5 of 5 (5 new)

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message 1: by Debbie (new)

Debbie That attitude would put me off, too. Good review!


JV (semi-hiatus) Ugh! I wouldn't want that negative attitude either. An honest review and hope your next read is better, Petra! 😊


Better Eggs Don't let my review put you off. It's only my opinion. Customers in my bookshop daily rubbish the books and authors i suggest. We all like different things.


message 4: by Jose (last edited Nov 17, 2018 03:26PM) (new)

Jose Moa I seems that the autor wants make a praise of the simple life in a particular Arcadia,a life without intelectual unease,a vital choice as legitimate in my opinión as others ,yet the knowledge will make you be free also will make you unhappy,when Adan choose to eat the apple and so the way to knowledge also choose the way to be aware of his own mortality and the existential anguish linked to knowledge.
I also understand your point of view Petra and in some way I share it.


Better Eggs Jose wrote: "I seems that the autor wants make a praise of the simple life in a particular Arcadia,a life without intelectual unease,a vital choice as legitimate in my opinión as others ,yet the knowledge will ..."

Having read that the author works for UNESCO and went to Oxford, I'm not sure that he did choose Arcadia. It does interest me that and if the book had been less of a chore to read, due to the constant inverted snobbery, I might have read more and found out.


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