‘Who hasn't thought, occasionally, of chucking it all in and starting up a new life in the country?
After years in France climbing the corporate ladder, Ian Walthew finds himself back in his native England and, with a working life looming in London, does just that, although it must be said more by accident than by design..
On a whim, he and his wife buy a cottage in the Cotswolds – surely one of England's prettiest regions.
Walthew is something of a burnt-out case when they arrive, and the story of this book is as much one of his own regeneration and coming to terms with his past, as it is an account of a life in the country.
As Walthew adapts to his new situation, it is his neighbour, Norman, a struggling, small-scale farmer (who barely acknowledges the new arrivals in the first few months) who gradually becomes the focal point of much of their day-to-day existence. Having lived what could be seen as a fairly typical modern life, flitting around the world for work and leisure, Walthew has his eyes opened to his own country by a man who has rarely left the area.
Through Norman – and his hard, battling, rustic life – Walthew develops a greater appreciation of what is there, and, just as importantly, what is being lost as the rural landscape – both social and physical – is irrevocably altered by 'progress'. It is a disappearing life – traditional farms pushed aside by bigger operations and developers catering to affluent lifestylers.
Walthew is not a hopeless romantic – he is well aware of the economic forces at work. But you can't help but feel that on many scores he's absolutely right, and while the country may be economically richer, it will be socially poorer as Norman and the likes are gradually squeezed from the land.
Well written and well constructed, this is an enjoyable, funny, often poignant book, and one that will resonate with many New Zealanders.'
Christchurch Press, 4th October, 2008
A Place in My Country
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