The Shepherd's Life

Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape
Narrated by: Bryan Dick
Length: 7 hrs and 34 mins
Categories: History, Europe
4.5 out of 5 stars (454 ratings)

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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 listeners say about The Shepherd's Life

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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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.

37 people found this 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.

4 people found this 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.

9 people found this helpful

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A Glimpse into a Different World

I so enjoyed this book. I initially picked it up because I am a passionate knitter and was interested in learning a little about the life of people involved in the wool world. While these particular sheep are not raised for their wool, tending them is probably similar to that of the wool producing type. I could not believe how difficult a life a shepherd leads. The commitment is year round and intense. I have gained a new respect for the whole industry and all its perils. The book is also beautifully written and the narrator excellent.
Thank you, James Rebanks!
Barbara Lankler

1 person found this 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.

5 people found this 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 people found this 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 people found this helpful

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Wonderful!

Would you listen to The Shepherd's Life again? Why?

Yes! Wonderful book. Full of life and insight into the life of a shepherd who loves his land, home, Grandfather, wife, children, sheep, dogs and way of life. He is deeply content with his life as he describes the work of being a shepherd and shows great respect for the heritage he comes from.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

The narrator was great--felt like he was the author.

Any additional comments?

I enjoyed listening to this book so much that it made me sad to have the story end.

5 people found this helpful

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What a GEM of a book

I actually purchased this book (a physical one) on a whim at a book-fundraiser, I was enjoying it but needed to knit a number of gifts for the holidays so decided to also get the audible version - WOW - I just fell in love with Bryan Dick's narration & Rebanks' beautifully down-to-earth yet very nuanced awareness -- poetic words -- lovely crafting - - warmed me right up. Loved the insightful glimpse into this ancient way of life that remains to this day. As a fiber-artist & ancestor of Irish farmers it evoked something deep and wonderful in me. Loved every minute of this journey & will re-read in the future.

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Absolutely fantastic!

I loved everything about this book, it’s honesty and beautiful but not pretentious writing. I was transported to the Lake District through every season in James’ rich storytelling