Next to Nature
‘All the charm, wonder, eccentricity and vigour of country life is here in these pages, and told with such engaging directness, detail and colour. To immerse yourself in this East Anglian year is be reminded of why we love and value the rhythms and realities of rural life. Bliss’ STEPHEN FRY
‘A capacious work that contains multitudes . . . a work to amble through, seasonally, relishing the vivid dashes of colour and the precision and delicacy of the descriptions’ THE SPECTATOR
‘My favourite read of the year . . . warm, funny and moving’ SUNDAY TIMES
‘A writer whose pages you turn and then turn back immediately to re-read, relish and get by heart’ SUSAN HILL, SUNDAY TELEGRAPH
Ronald Blythe lived at the end of an overgrown farm track deep in the rolling countryside of the Stour Valley, on the border between Suffolk and Essex. His home was Bottengoms Farm, a sturdy yeoman’s house once owned by the artist John Nash. From here, Blythe spent almost half a century observing the slow turn of the agricultural year, the church year and village life in a series of rich, lyrical rural diaries.
Beginning with the arrival of snow on New Year’s Day and ending with Christmas carols sung in the village church, Next to Nature invites us to witness a simple life richly lived. With gentle wit and keen observation Blythe meditates on his life and faith, on literature, art and history, and on our place in the landscape.
It is a celebration of one of our greatest nature writers, and an unforgettable ode to the English countryside.
Praise for Ronald Blythe England's greatest living country writer * Independent * Blythe's observations of nature are as unforced as breathing, and his descriptions are precise, celebratory and unexpected . . . [He] seduces even the irreligious reader into an appreciation of the meshing of the temporal and the timeless * Guardian * [Ronald Blythe] is an English institution . . . he lives with a deep, authentic sense of wonder * TLS * Some of the most beautiful and precise prose in modern English . . . an expansive exploration of how land scapes, humans, and words interact, touched with great humanity. . . He is our tribal storyteller, plugged into a common stream of inquisitive conversation that joins us as a species -- RICHARD MABEY One of the great prose stylists on the twentieth century . . . a modern Hazlitt -- MARK COCKER The finest rural historian of our times * Country Life * It would be difficult to find . . . a sensibility which is richer or better fed, more deeply watered and manured, more drenched in Englishness -- ADAM NICOLSON [His] minute observation of places, people and plants, his ear for scraps of dialogue and his feeling for poetry and painting make everything about those days immediate . . . [He has] a deep of love of the place - and of humanity -- MAGGI HAMBLING The best portrait of modern rural life in England, subtle and compassionate -- ROGER DEAKIN, on Akenfield The doyen of writers about the natural world in England -- MICHAEL McCARTHY
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