Two reviews of books about the country good life. Both were met with mixed reception, though this is never a bad thing for a reading group discussion.


The first review is by Scholar’s Court Group in Stratford who recently read Dreams of the Good Life  by Richard Mabey, one of the 150 titles available from the Warwickshire Libraries Reading Group Collection.  This book has been reviewed a couple of time before – it’s not always a hit as found by Tuesday Night Reads in Rugby .

Here are their thoughts :

The book generated a good discussion. –for some members, the discussion was the best part. Opinions were divided, from a fair degree of enthusiasm for the book, to other readers finding it very boring. We thought the description on the cover is misleading. “The life of Flora Thompson and the creation of Lark Rise to Candleford “.1

Consensus was that Mabey did a good job on the creation of her writings, but the book failed as a biography of Flora Thompson. She didn’t emerge as a full, rounded character, and it was frustrating that important parts of her life ( e.g. motherhood and family life, and her work with the post office) were not more fully explored.

A number of readers found the early sections of the book confusingly written, because the author intermingles the real-life Flora and the fictional Laura, with little clear distinction between the two.

Flora Thompson’s development as a writer, was better developed, but still insufficient to capture a number of people’s interest.

Our discussion broadened out to cover later versions of Lark Rise to Candleford (e.g the illustrated edition, and the successful TV series) which proved more entertaining than Dreams of the Good Life.  

After the confusing style of writing in the early sections, the author’s style gets more straightforward once he is covering Flora Thompson’s adult life.

Overall view of the book is that it’s good, and would recommend it. It’s not too long and worth reading, as far as it goes, but don’t expect a fully rounded biography.


The next review comes from Combrook Reading Group, based in Wellesbourne, who have read The Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks. 

We had a good discussion, which threw up conflicting opinions on farming methods, and the relationship between farming communities and visitors. We thought the style was easy and conversational, and possibly had been written from diaries or episodically.

Some of the group would recommend the book to particular people with either an interest in sheep or little knowledge of farming.

It is a good book, and might be an inspiration to people who have not enjoyed formal schooling.



Have you read these books? Do you agree with theseWarwickshire Reading Groups?

For more tales of county life why not try….

A kestrel for a knave by Barry Hines

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

The uninvited guests by Sadie Jones


Happy reading!