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Publisher's Summary

The instant number-one international best seller.

Some people's lives are entirely their own creations. James Rebanks' isn't. He's the first son of a shepherd who was the first son of a shepherd himself; his family have lived and worked in the Lake District of Northern England for generations, further back than recorded history. It's a part of the world known mainly for its romantic descriptions by Wordsworth and the much-loved illustrated children's books of Beatrix Potter.

But James' world is quite different. His way of life is ordered by the seasons and the work they demand. It hasn't changed for hundreds of years: sending the sheep to the fells in the summer and making the hay; the autumn fairs where the flocks are replenished; the grueling toil of winter when the sheep must be kept alive, and the lightheadedness that comes with spring, as the lambs are born and the sheep get ready to return to the hills and valleys.

The Shepherd's Life is the story of a deep-rooted attachment to place, modern dispatches from an ancient landscape that describe a way of life that is little noticed and yet has profoundly shaped the landscape over time. In evocative and lucid prose, James Rebanks takes us through a shepherd's year, offering a unique account of rural life and a fundamental connection with the land that most of us have lost. It is a story of working lives, the people around him, his childhood, his parents and grandparents, a people who exist and endure even as the culture - of the Lake District and of farming - changes around them. Many memoirs are of people working desperately hard to leave a place. This is the story of someone trying desperately hard to stay.

©2015 James Rebanks (P)2015 Macmillan Audio

Critic Reviews

"It's bloody marvelous." (Helen Macdonald, New York Times best-selling author of H Is for Hawk)
"Captivating.... A book about continuity and roots and a sense of belonging in an age that's increasingly about mobility and self-invention. Hugely compelling." (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Story

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  • Story

The Author Wears His Life As A Heavy Mantle

To me this book is burdened by a strong and at times harsh sense of judgmental and contentious attitudes, personal stands and beliefs. The story is not linear but instead circles around and around the same tales told and issues redressed. Due to this style of writing the reader hears the same themes repeated--intensely--with a force that made me wince.

There are moments of beauty in the writing--but these were not enough to counter the general feeling of hostility that rushes out at the listener as the book progresses. Some of this may be due to the tone of the narrator. However, I think in the end it is the message not the messenger that gave me pause. To me, an angry and sad book that is more about blame and setting the record straight than anything else.

34 of 42 people found this review helpful

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A good story, well told

I have an Australian Shepherd dog and thought whimsically that this would be a fun book to read -- even if it were awful, I would hear stories about dogs herding sheep. I was SO surprised to be completely swept up into the story and looking forward to every minute I spent with it. The narrator has the right accent and reads very well so the story moves effortlessly through all the different examinations of this world I knew nothing about in part of England that had originally introduced to me by Arthur Ransome in his children's books.

James Rebanks has passion for his work, the ability to communicate that passion and do it with excellent writing and insights. Yes, I did enjoy the part about the dogs but now have a great deal of interest and background in sheep -- a species I have always loved anyway. Don't let this one slip by.

8 of 11 people found this review helpful

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The Shepherd's Life by James Rebanks

Bloody wonderful! I enjoyed this so much! Nature, creatures, a reminder of growing up, of my own ancient farm past and the beauty of caring for animals. A masterpiece of candid storytelling. Glad I own it and can go back to read and listen again. Thanks James for letting me visit the fells.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Amazing documentary of a way of life rapidly disappearing

It was like walking in the hills, laying on the grass, observing the beautiful landscape. It was beautifully narrated. I am hoping the author writes another specifically on sheep farming including raising, breeding and doctoring. Covers superficially sheep farming more in a romantic anecdotal way, but very knowledgeable of the old way of doing things, I am very interested on learning such ways before they are lost.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Marvelous! So greatful of this preserved history.

Marvelous! So grateful for the preserved history. Delightful and empowering. The old ones have given us such a richness and strength.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Brilliant!

I raise animals on land my family has owned for generations. My sister is doing the same with her husband on his family farm. This book really hits at the core of a lot of what I have come to appreciate about this and I could not be more pleased with how he addresses much of what the modern mainstream doesn't get about this.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A true gem

A rare, wonderful window into the life -- and land -- of a shepherd. Family. Flock. I loved every minute of it.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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An important and poetic life

A life of meaning and purpose lived out in the beauty and history of the land, animal and community. We should all be so lucky.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Not to be missed.

As an American shepherdess, I found so much to identify with while listening to this story. I found much truth about this way of life told with almost unbearable insight. For anyone wishing to better understand why some of us cherish this vocation, they can not do better than to read or listen to this book. Well done you, Mr. Rebanks.
And a tip of the hat to Bryan Dick for the reading.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Outstanding!

Rarely does a book allow you to feel a life lived This is so beautifully written; it tells of a life in farming that struggles to survive in this highly technological world. It is rich with stories told and survived in generations of farming sheep in a sometimes harsh and cruel landscape yet startlingly told beauty that is the lake district. This life is steeped in tradition and pride; the building and raising of a flock and the generations of breeding required to produce a flock of perfection and survival - and envy.
I so enjoyed this book and found myself immersed in the story of the author and cared about his family and his trials and struggles as a result.
The narration was the perfect compliment. This is one of a few books that I highly recommend without reservation - and I also will find myself listening again and again.
To the author - thank you for the gift of this story and book and for allowing all of us to peer into this beautiful life!

4 of 6 people found this review helpful