Nature Writing Meadowland by John Lewis-Stempel | Book Review Roundup | The Omnivore

Published on June 12th, 2014


Meadowland by John Lewis-Stempel

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Blurb: What really goes on in the long grass? Meadowland gives an unique and intimate account of an English meadow’s life from January to December, together with its biography. In exquisite prose, John Lewis-Stempel records the passage of the seasons from cowslips in spring to the hay-cutting of summer and grazing in autumn, and includes the biographies of the animals that inhabit the grass and the soil beneath: the badger clan, the fox family, the rabbit warren,the skylark brood and the curlew pair, among others. Their births, lives, and deaths are stories that thread through the book from first page to last.

(Doubleday, 2014)

Read an interview with John Lewis-Stempel | The Telegraph

Bel Mooney, The Daily Mail 

“Reading this engaging, closely-observed and beautifully-written account of one year in the life of an ancient meadow on a farm in Herefordshire, I kept wanting to leap up and go outside to inspect the pattern of spiderwebs in a bush and listen to geese honking overhead.  This author’s deep love of the world around him is as inspiring as it is entertaining; the most committed townsperson could read his book and be transported imaginatively to a world that is surely still within our blood and bones… [A] wonderful book”

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Stuart Winter, Daily Express 

“Graze a single page of John Lewis-Stempel’s beautifully crafted Meadowland and you will be quickly persuaded that despite all the synthetic, manufactured, man-made things that exist on this planet, or beyond, in the case of the technology we have launched into the cosmos, it is the humble, verdant meadow that is arguably the single creation that brings us closest to God.”

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John Akeroyd, The Spectator 

“Modern meadow books are usually copiously illustrated in colour to reach the coffee-table market, but John Lewis-Stempel bravely relies on lively elegant prose. His thoughtful, discursive, often humorous and always enjoyable narrative conveys a vital message, for one cannot overemphasise how important are these last ancient meadows.”

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Angus Clarke, The Times 

“There are lyrical moments aplenty, but not this is not the cloying “regardez-moi maman” nature writing, all clever adjectives and swooning synaesthesia. JLS’s tone is level, involved, humorous and even self-deprecating… This is a rich, interesting book, generously studded with raisins of curious information, but ultimately it is an elegy.”

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Tom Cox, The Observer 

“Lewis-Stempel’s eye for detail and the poetic imagery of sentences such as “Behind me the river shouts with the abandon of a football crowd” or “Someone has stirred the clouds into milk pudding” are reminiscent of the late, brilliant Roger Deakin. But if Deakin is a writer you feel you could have easily gone for an ale with in a beer garden, dressed in your oldest jeans, Lewis-Stempel is one you sense you might have to dress up for slightly. He shoots game, has a son called Tristram, and his ancestors have connections to Elizabeth I (his descriptions of the latter are arguably the only bum note in the book). But when he writes about the history of his meadow – and by extension the British countryside as a whole – it never feels like he’s writing purely from a landowner’s perspective.”

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Tim Dee, The Guardian 

“The bulk of his year-long diary is a vivid day-by-day account of the natural life of his farm… A wider reality interrupts occasionally with some abrasive jibes about the modern world… The tone of these interventions feels at odds with the remainder of the book: a different voice, more newsy, breaks in and sounds in places as though Lewis-Stempel is auditioning to be agricultural story editor on The Archers.”

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