Village Christmas and Other Notes on the English Year by Laurie Lee (Review)

Village Christmas and Other Notes on the English Year by Laurie Lee

Blurb

From the author of Cider With Rosie, Village Christmas is a moving, lyrical portrait of England through the changing years and seasons.

Laurie Lee left his childhood home in the Cotswolds when he was nineteen, but it remained with him throughout his life until, many years later, he returned for good. This collection brings to life the sights, sounds, landscapes and traditions of his home – from centuries-old May Day rituals to his own patch of garden, from carol singing in crunching snow to pub conversations and songs. Here too he writes about the mysteries of love, living in wartime Chelsea, Winston Churchill’s wintry funeral and his battle, in old age, to save his beloved Slad Valley from developers.

Told with a warm sense of humour and a powerful sense of history, Village Christmas brings us a picture of a vanished world.

Review

I ordered this book in November to read in December but sadly it didn’t arrive until the beginning of January but once I saw it only had a few Christmas stories and the rest were all based on the rest of the year I decided to read it straight away. This is my first Laurie Lee book and I really enjoyed it.

The book is divided into the seasons and each season has lots of reflections from Lee’s past. The stories range from when he was a young boy growing up in his beloved village in the Cotswolds to when he was living in London. Lee also writes about some of his memories of when he returned to live in the Cotswolds and his fight to save the beauty of his village. 

I really loved Lee’s descriptions and his way with words in this book which meant that at times I could not put the book down. I particularly enjoyed his beautiful story called ‘The Shining Severn’ which describes the river Severn in all its glory. ‘Harvest Festival’ was also a favourite of mine but to be honest I loved all the stories and you could really appreciate the love Lee has for his country. 

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and hope to read ‘Cider with Rosie’ soon. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons. 

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About the author

Laurence Edward Alan “Laurie” Lee, MBE, was an English poet, novelist, and screenwriter. His most famous work was an autobiographical trilogy which consisted of Cider with Rosie (1959), As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning (1969) and A Moment of War (1991). While the first volume famously recounts his childhood in the idyllic Slad Valley, the second deals with his leaving home for London and his first visit to Spain in 1934, and the third with his return in December 1937 to join the Republican International Brigade.

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The Secret Life of Cows by Rosamund Young (Review)

The Secret Life of Cows by Rosamund Young

About the author

Kite’s Nest Farm is on the edge of the Cotswold escarpment. It is run by Rosamund Young, her brother Richard, and her partner Gareth. Nature is left to itself as much as possible and the animals receive exceptional kindness and consideration.

Blurb

COWS ARE AS VARIED AS PEOPLE.

They can be highly intelligent or slow to understand, vain, considerate, proud, shy or inventive. Although much of a cow’s day is spent eating, they always find time for activities such as babysitting, playing hide and seek, blackberry picking or fighting a tree. Drawn from over forty years of organic farming experience, this is Rosamund Young’s affectionate record of a hitherto secret world.

Review

When I bought this book last year I will be honest it was because there were cows on the front. I love cows and have fond memories spending time with my dad when he needed an extra hand with the cattle (my dad is a herdsman). One of my favourite memories is of a bull called Dillon who would happily let you cuddle him and scratch his nose all day, he was just a giant teddy bear. This book is a first for me, I have read many cat and dog books but this is my first cow book.

This book took me no time at all to read and I could have read it in one sitting but started reading it before bed and eventually I had to give in to sleep and finish it the next day. On reflection though I think it is a perfect book to just dip in and out of when you feel like an interesting story about cows.

I love the many characters described in this book. You have the cow who enjoys playing hide and seek, the cow who takes a dislike to one of the farmer’s hats and likes to steal it. The relationships between the cattle are also endearing and I love how they will just go down to the farm house to tell the farmers that they need something.

The book is not just all about cows it does mention pigs, sheep and chickens. I love chickens and think they are amazing little characters so it was lovely to read some little stories about some hens. My particular favourite was the friendship between a pig and sheep.

The main thing I struggled with with this book was the many, many names of the cows, at the start of the book there is a family tree of the cows and their names but this does not contain all the many characters within the book and I must admit I was starting to forget who was whose child, sibling etc in the great cow family tree so in the end I gave up trying to keep them all related. It would have helped if the book was laid out in family groups but the stories were randomly scattered through the book with no kind of link.

I love the ethos that Kite’s Nest Farm live by and fully agree with it because animals should be happy and free as much as possible. I did find though that during the introduction Young gives she did tend to repeat herself a great deal and I just found that the whole ethos was a bit in your face at times.

I really enjoyed this book and the only things that let it down for me were the many names and the repetition that appeared within the book. Otherwise I loved the stories of the cows and the many different characters and highly recommend this book to animal lovers. I will be passing this book on to my dad next as after I mentioned it to him he is very keen to read it. I give this book 3 out of 5 Dragons.

Purchase links

Book Depository

Waterstones

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Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas by Adam Kay (Review)

Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas by Adam Kay

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About the author

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Adam Kay is an award-winning comedian and author of the million-copy bestseller This is Going to Hurt. He previously worked as a junior doctor and currently lives in London.

Blurb

Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas is the hilarious, poignant and entertaining story of the life of a junior doctor at the most challenging time of the year. With twenty-five tales of intriguing, shocking and incredible Christmas incidents, the British public will finally appreciate the sacrifices made and the challenges faced by the unsung heroes of the NHS.

Review

This was a book I got on my Christmas shopping expedition to Birmingham where I went slightly wild buying Christmas books. I have not read Adam Kay’s previous book This is Going to Hurt but my best friend has and highly recommended the book to me but I started with his Christmas book instead and hope to read his first soon.

I did enjoy this book and loved the stories and it really does show how hard the NHS work and what they have to sacrifice in their lives. The other element that I liked was that Kay gave warnings about particularly harrowing stories and gave you the option to skip to the next story. I was brave and read these stories and I must admit the one nearly made me cry, I really did not realise even such a procedure existed.

This book really was an eye opener and really made me think about everyone who works for the NHS and what they have to put up with on a daily basis let alone over the holiday period. I really did feel sorry for Kay, that he had to work so many Christmas days over the years. I really think that something as special as Christmas Day should be taken in turns with staff.

The main issue I had with the book was that the comedy just felt forced and too much for me at times. I could have done with a little less comedy in the book and overall I think I would have enjoyed it a bit more. The stories in themselves were amusing and unbelievable in most cases they did not need Kay’s extra layer of comedy on the top.

I did enjoy the book and recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about working in the NHS and what an employee in NHS has to put up with. The book is only short and will not take long to read and you can easily dip in and out of it. I rate this book 3 out of 5 Dragons.

Purchase Links

Waterstones

Book Depository

 

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