This is an unbelievably good book, and I still can’t explain why I took me so long to read it. It was sitting quietly on the bookself for sometime until I decided to pick it up and give it a chance. I am not that kind of reader that follows the bestselling books; I am, rather, a chronological reader, slowly and methodically, one by one, I am trying to read my ever increasing pile of ‘to read’ books.
Back to The Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District, James Rebanks, a Herdwick sheep farmer in Lake District, has written a wonderful tale. It is a book about the story of his family that dates back many generations. It is also a tale of the Lake District, a place well known to tourists and readers. A place that inspired William Wordsworth and John Ruskin. It is the place that Beatrix Potter, who fell in love with, and where she began to dream up her anthropomorphic woodland animals. She had her own Herdwick flock and she played a major role in the conservation of this special breed.
I have been in Lake District a few times, hiking and walking around, even studying the geology of the place, but James Rebanks made me see the place differently. Lake District is not only the beautiful landscape, it is also the people who have lived there for centuries, isolated and poor but also proud and independent, building walls and shepherding, generation after generation. The world around changes but the shepherds in Lake District still follow the traditional way of farming with the sticks and the dogs. It is the only way if you want to farm in Lake District. It is a hard life but it also a free life.
James Rebanks shares his love about the place and his way of life with the world. It is a world that represents a pastoral ideal, a mental refuge perhaps, from our fast, technological world. It is a book about continuity and belonging in an age of migration and mobility.