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A beautiful lost classic of English countryside literature

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY ROBERT MACFARLANE

During the Second World War, John Stewart Collis volunteered to leave his comfortable life as an academic to work on the land for the war effort. His account of this time perfectly captures the soft-handed, city-dweller’s naivety and wonder both at the workings of nature and the toughness of life on a farm. It’s set in the south of England and comprises exquisitely written sections on whatever happens to take Collis’s fancy and inspire his thoughtful curiosity, ranging from humorous sketches of the characters he works alongside; mini-essays such as ‘Contemplation upon Ants’, The Mystery of Clouds’, ‘Colloquy on the Rick’, ‘Meditation while Singling Mangolds’, ‘The Garden of Eden’; and celebrations of the earthworm, pea and potato. His mind ranges far and wide through literature science and philosophy as well as amazing descriptive writing, which makes for a book that is as uncategorisable as it is enchanting.

Reviews

He is the poet among modern ecologists, a natural philosopher who , whether he is writing about trees or rainbows, an iceberg or a piece of chalk, never takes a fact without linking it to an idea, or an idea without connecting it to a fact. His book dispenses information in the language of the imagination, and by peeling back the film by which everything appears dully familiar, reveals a vision of the world miraculously transfigured

Michael Holroyd, The Times

Collis' divine gift is to explain the extraordinary nature of the ordinary

Sunday Times

A philosopher who had a shining view of the natural world, and was able to divine the magic inherent in phenomena so commonplace that we take them for granted

Guardian

These jottings establish the man as one of the greatest recorders of English agricultural life

Val Hennessey, Daily Mail

A little classic

The Oldie

Engagingly conversational... his writings are, in every sense, down to earth. He is compulsively curious about how things work, whether animal or mechanical. Collis finds contentment in good, decent work and simple pleasures. His writings are a comfort, now as then, in difficult political and economic times

Iain Finlayson, Saga Magazine

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback

    9780099529484

    March 15, 2009

    Vintage Classics

    304 pages

    RRP $22.99

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  • EBook

    9781409088400

    September 1, 2010

    Vintage Digital

    304 pages

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