The Shepherd's Life: A Tale of the Lake District (Hardback)
  • The Shepherd's Life: A Tale of the Lake District (Hardback)

The Shepherd's Life: A Tale of the Lake District (Hardback)

Hardback 320 Pages
Published: 02/04/2015

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Shortlisted for the Waterstones Book of the Year 2015

This book is the Sunday Times Number one Bestseller.

From James Rebanks, the Herdwick Shepherd, comes The Shepherd's Life, a story of the Lake District and its people which could redefine the literature of rural life Some people's lives are entirely their own creations. James Rebanks' isn't. The first son of a shepherd, who was the first son of a shepherd himself, he and his family have lived and worked in and around the Lake District for generations. Their way of life is ordered by the seasons and the work they demand, and has been for hundreds of years. A Viking would understand the work they do: sending the sheep to the fells in the summer and making the hay; the autumn fairs where the flocks are replenished; the gruelling toil of winter when the sheep must be kept alive, and the light-headedness that comes with spring, as the lambs are born and the sheep get ready to return to the fells. These modern dispatches from an ancient landscape tell the story of a deep-rooted attachment to place, describing a way of life that is little noticed and yet has profoundly shaped this landscape. In evocative and lucid prose, James Rebanks takes us through a shepherd's year, offering a unique account of rural life and a fundamental connection with the land that most of us have lost. It is a story of working lives, the people around him, his childhood, his parents and grandparents, a people who exist and endure even as the world changes around them. Many stories are of people working desperately hard to leave a place. This is the story of someone trying desperately hard to stay. James Rebanks is the Herdwick Shepherd, whose account of shepherding has a strong following on Twitter. His family has farmed in the same area for more than six hundred years.

Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
ISBN: 9781846148545
Number of pages: 320
Weight: 461 g
Dimensions: 222 x 144 x 30 mm

The nature publishing sensation of the year . . . Unsentimental yet luminous . . . An antidote to our modern metropolitan cynicism and a deeply moral book -- Melissa Harrison, 'Books of the Year' * The Times *
The Shepherd's Life gives the finger to Wordsworth. James Rebanks seems never happier than when his hand is up a Herdwick sheep's arse, but his book is a superbly written ode to an ancient way of life, and brought back childhood summers in the Lake District when I didn't look hard enough -- Nicholas Hytner, 'Books of the Year' * Guardian *
This beautifully sure-footed memoir ... peels back the plastic packaging to reveal the attritional nature of hill farming, with its knife-edge dangers, noise, blood, guts, familial claustrophobia and glorious countryside. It is an unsentimental education that celebrates the real countryside shorn of its lyrical excesses. It is also a triumphant tale of finding one's "alive and necessary" self. A pastoral for the 21st century -- MEMOIR OF THE YEAR * Sunday Times *
One sees the countryside differently after reading it . . . A rare and honest book about the realities of working life in the 21st-century countryside -- Richard Benson, 'Books of the Year' * Independent *
Evocative and perceptive -- Patrick Barkham, Guardian 'Books of the Year'
This unsentimental account of the ups and downs of life as a Lake District shepherd has been one of the hits of the year . . . An instant rural classic, our age's Lark Rise or Cider with Rosie -- Books of the Year * Mail on Sunday *
Blissful . . . Rebanks writes with loving eloquence about a kind of deep-rooted life that is all but lost in the developed world -- Geraldine Brooks, 'Books of the Year' * Wall Street Journal *
A very good book -- Alan Bennett
This book makes you feel glad to be alive: James Rebanks is our modern equivalent of John Clare, Britain's greatest writer of the hard labour and radiant grace of the shepherd's life -- Sir Jonathan Bate
Affectionate, evocative, illuminating. A story of survival - of a flock, a landscape and a disappearing way of life. I love this book -- Nigel Slater, author of Toast and The Kitchen Diaries
Bloody marvellous -- Helen Macdonald, author of H is for Hawk
A powerful - and quietly electrifying - meditation... Page by page, he builds what amounts to a 21st-century pastoral manifesto. The book is an unsentimental education, part history of farming in the Lake District, part personal memoir. And yet it still soars... Rebanks's prose is beautifully sure-footed -- Helen Davies * Sunday Times *
A remarkable achievement... Utterly unsentimental, The Shepherd's Life is, nevertheless, profoundly moving... The human values that imbue The Shepherd's Life are, perhaps, ones that Britain, disillusioned and scandal weary, could do with being reminded of right now -- Melissa Harrison * Financial Times *
Rebanks's enthusiasm and talent for poetic writing is infectious... [His] words create not only a gorgeous landscape painting of the Lake District and its inhabitants, human, animal, bird and fish, but also a useful social document... What is most striking about this book is its authenticity; this is the real thing -- Carol Midgley * The Times *
A wonderfully detailed and candid account of a life that is both individual and typical of this role in rural society... told with perfect pitch, in prose that flows as easily as speech, cleaves hungrily to the particular, and shifts without strain between the workaday and the imaginative -- David Craig * Guardian *
Absorbing, often funny, and beautifully written... a testament to the importance of maintaining a connection to the land * Observer *
Captivating... A book about continuity and roots and a sense of belonging in an age that's increasingly about mobility and self-invention. Hugely compelling -- Michiko Kakutani * New York Times *
Exceptional... Rebanks's way with words is akin to that of that of an expert shearer with the clippers - swift, deft, skilled - and the resulting prose is lean, vivid, tough and handsome. I loved his book. It is one to restore faith in writing and the business of publishing - a story not like any other, told from the inside by someone whose passion for his subject lights up almost every sentence -- Tom Fort * Literary Review *
An unforgettable survivor's book that raises important questions, not least about education... one of the most truthful depictions of contemporary rural life that I have read -- Richard Benson * Independent *
More than a tribute to a rare and doughty tribe. If hills could speak, this is surely a tale the fells would tell -- Horatio Clare * Telegraph *
An enlightening, exquisitely written account... I was beguiled by this book, an eloquent love-letter to a cherished way of life -- Brian Viner * Daily Mail *
May well do for sheep what Helen Macdonald did for hawks -- Stephen Moss * Guardian *
Punchy, well-read and occasionally lyrical... a glorious book, alive with the author's voice, which is strong and individual, as befits a man who makes a living in this ancient but precarious way. Most striking is its honesty * Herald Scotland *
Rebanks offers a fascinating account of his life in farming that is in equal parts memoir, social commentary and procedural. Even for the most committed urbanite, it's a brilliant read -- Alexander Larman * Observer *
James Rebanks's unsentimental, sharply detailed memoir about his life as a shepherd gripped me from the first page -- Moira Hodgson * Wall Street Journal *
A timely and important book, with flashes of beauty in its spare and honest prose -- Sadie Jones, author of The Outcast
In James Rebanks we hear a new voice from the fells. The toil and the beauty in The Shepherd's Life are utterly compelling -- Nicholas Crane, author of Coast
A vivid, honest, unforgettably written account not just of one shepherd's year, but of an ancient way of life -- Lucy Dillon, author of A Hundred Pieces of Me
The Shepherd's Life is a reader's delight. No tourist wandering the iconic Lake District is Rebanks; coming from centuries of farmers he is as 'hefted' to the fells as the Herdwick sheep he keeps. He lives, breathes and works his landscape - which gives him an inside edge as sharp as shears over most of the flock of current countryside-writers. Rebanks has written a marvellous autobiography - of himself, his family, and the hills themselves. For they are indivisible -- John Lewis-Stempel, author of Meadowland
What came through was the stolid humility, gentle stubbornness and genuine care you need to live this life. Many books are written about a thing but this book is of a thing and is valuable for it -- Cynan Jones, author of The Dig
The Shepherd's Life is that rare thing, a well-written book about the life of the land by a man who gets his living from the land. It's a paean for a peopled landscape, and a powerful counterblast to the doleful environmentalism that would empty our land of its people -- Philip Walling, author of Counting Sheep
Beautifully written -- Alan Cumming, actor and author of Not My Father's Son
Irreverent, honest, achingly beautiful and totally authentic. Rebanks challenges us to understand what would be lost if no one remembers the seasons of a shepherd's life or the culture of sheep farming. His joy is as contagious as his writing -- Linda Lear, author of Beatrix Potter: The extraordinary life of a Victorian genius
Truly extraordinary... written with a mastery of vivid, concrete detail that makes you gasp * WI Life *
A wonderful book which will surely become a Lake District classic. Powerfully written and unflinchingly honest, it provides a vivid insight into the realities of hill farming life -- Angus J L Winchester, Professor of Local & Landscape History, Lancaster University
A gorgeous book, unsentimental but exultant, vivid and profound, and a fierce defense of small-scale farming -- Maryn McKenna * National Geographic *
A beautifully told tale suffused by a profound sense of belonging and a clear-eyed love of the land and its people. * Sunday Morning Herald *
His prose is earthed and conversational; it feels as if you're leaning over a gate, listening to his ruminations. The book exudes tough passion, and a sense of belonging and love that holds you rapt to the very last line * Intelligent Life *

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“Well written and absorbing, but thoroughly misleading and in some ways rather unpleasant.”

I didn't particularly warm to Rebanks, and not merely because he tells us in the opening pages that at his school he and his classmates competed to smash the most expensive piece of equipment they could, or that... More

Paperback edition
Helpful? Upvote 204

“A wonderfully charming but hard life.”

James Rebanks' 'The Shepherd's Life' is a story of Shepherding in the lake district. A way of life that is little changed since the Vikings. Structured by the seasons, demanding, exhilarating,... More

Hardback edition
2 similar books recommended
Helpful? Upvote 188

“A Shepherd's Life”

Honest, passionate, gruff, brutal, generous - full of northern grit and pride and no-frills description of the day-to-day ups and downs (plenty of both) on the family farm in the beautiful, often harsh, Lake District.... More

Paperback edition
Helpful? Upvote 168

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