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Next to Nature: A Lifetime in the English Countryside

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Being with Ronnie Blythe in one of his books is like being on a magic carpet, the exhilaration of being alive, and of nature, and the world -- Ian Collins * Today Programme * Next to Nature is the perfect memorial, a latter-day Book of Hours . The structure is perfect, compiling Blythe's columns from the Church Times by date, but not by year, so that we read through the circular time of the natural and ecclesiastical year, without altogether knowing where we are in a linear time that seems far less significant out in this little patch of the old rural England, where any self-respecting village needs something to hang dreadful stories on; Borley Rectory was just down the road, and "This was a Mabey walk to rival his walk with me to Wormingford Mere where, although I don't like to boast, we have a dragon. 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 . It is a selection of Blythe’s regular columns for the Church Times, covering many years and arranged by month.

Next to Nature is a hoard of observation, gossip and stories designed to take you through the year, with something rich and strange on every page -- Hilary Spurling * The Spectator, Books of the Year 2022 * [Ronald Blythe] is an English institution .Better to have this in hard copy and flip open to some pages every now and then throughout the year. I think Ronald Blythe is a genius in a special, but perhaps overlooked, journalistic genre – the nature notes or country talk columns. I imagined him reading them by lamplight, just as I read when I was a boy, the twin wicks faintly waving inside the Swan glass. I’ve been reading this over Christmas along with Guy Shrubsole’s brilliant new The Lost Rainforests of Britain, and I’ve enjoyed every moment.

Blythe is of course best known for Akenfield, his oral history of a small Suffolk community, and, as someone as deeply rooted in just such a community as Blythe was, the pieces gathered together in Next to Nature have a remarkable immediacy and honesty of experience and expression. We should be grateful to have him and his beautiful pages, and for the privilege of spending so many ordinary and yet rare and precious days in his company -- SUSAN HILL * Telegraph 5* review * A capacious book that contains multitudes . I started this in March, and was playing catch-up until October, but really it would have worked much better read month by month; it's only a shame that there isn't quite an entry per day. Hope this book reaches a much wider audience than just readers who might remember Akenfield and those of us who immediately turned to the Word from Wormingford column when the Church Times landed on the door mat. Yes, among other things, it’s a paean to the quiet, diffused but real religion of rural life; but, that itself is inextricably linked with observation of life through the seasons (and, as Muslims continually point out, if more Christians actually “lived” their religion there would be wider ground for mutual respect and dialogue.I loved his descriptions of the land, birds, bugs, farm animals, neighbors and friends, weather, his trips and walks, subject matter of his preaching at the various churches, state of the farms by season, church celebrations, etc. an expansive exploration of how land­scapes, humans, and words interact, touched with great humanity. It is accepted by you that Daunt Books has no control over additional charges in relation to customs clearance. You can unsubscribe from our list at any point by changing your preferences, or contacting us directly.

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