Return to Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village in the 21st Century

by Craig Taylor.

Sequel to a classic 1969 study of an English village.

Return to Akenfield

This is a fantastic book. I first read extracts from it in Granta magazine a few years ago, and knew it would have to go on my reading list. It is the follow-up to Ronald Blythe's 1969 book Akenfield, in which villagers from the Suffolk village of Akenfield (a fictitious amalgam of two real villages) talk in their own words about village life. It is an absorbing mixture of sad, amusing and poignant tales told by real people.

The people interviewed for the book include farmers, gamekeepers, retirees, shopkeepers, publicans, teachers and immigrant workers. English country life is changing, and these people help to document it: "I was so impressed by the irrigation systems and fertilisers," says one Polish fruit farm worker. "Only the best farms had these systems in Poland. But the strawberries have a different taste—fresh and full of water. Polish strawberries weren't so big, they weren't so good-looking like the ones here, but in Poland the strawberries had more taste. Here I was impressed at how fast they went from the field to the supermarket."

One other thing which pleased me about this book was that, although it could so easily have been classified as sociology (a so-called discipline that I have no time at all for), the publishers chose to classify it as current affairs—which is all sociology is in reality. In this case, however, I prefer the term oral history.

Buy this book!

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