Reviewed by Jonty Brunyee:
We all have a book inside us, right? I am sure I have - I just don’t know what it’s about or how to
write it yet!
But when I read The Farm by Richard Benson, I thought I did know. The story that is told and the
voice that Richard uses deeply resonates. The evocative and personal narrative reflected, in part,
my own journey.
Richard grew up on a farm in Yorkshire. But farming wasn’t for him and he fled to London and a flash
career disconnected from the land and soil. But as the industry changed and became more intensive
the family business and home had to be sold. He returned to his fold to help. He returned to find his
The book tells the fate of the British countryside, a farm, some pigs and the Benson family. It is full of
humour, grit and love, despite loss and change. He weaves memories of his childhood and youth
with the fate of the farm and various local characters.
My dad was a Yorkshireman and a farmer, and like Benson’s, he didn’t say much and was very good
at raising a sharp and sceptical eyebrow. Benson slowly realises that this brusqueness doesn't mean
that they don't feel much. "Just because you talked about your feelings all the time didn't mean you were any more sensitive, or that you cared more." Through the book old farmers and young
farmhands reveal how passionately they care about the soil, the landscape or one of their animals.
The end is nearly unbearable and yes, I shed a tear or three. But it was inevitable, so I am not
spoiling anything here. The farm is bought by a property developer and houses are built on the old
pastures and stackyards for people seeking the rural idyl that we countryfolk know does not exist.
As Benson's Dad says: "I reckon folks today think if summat's natural it's perfect, but it in't. Nature's
imperfect. Natural's all shapes, like tatties.’’
I haven’t picked up the pen yet but one day I might, and it will be Richard’s fault.
At FarmED we believe in shopping locally and supporting local businesses, so do support your local
bookshops by buying direct from them whenever you can. ‘The Farm’ (published by Penguin) is also
available from Bookshop.org.