Review published on March 4, 2018.
The facets that make up our character are drawn from many sources: our DNA, our family, our culture, our history and, as Tom Cox argues in this book, the places where you grow up can define you as much as these other things. The way Cox recommends that immerse yourself in the local landscape is to walk through the lanes and paths, climb the hills and the stiles, take in the views and soak up the natural world at walking pace.
The blurb on the cover says: It’s not quite a nature book, not quite a humour book, not quite a family memoir, not quite folklore, not quite social history, not quite a collection of essays, but a bit of all six. But there is a lot more in this book than that. He is captivated by all sorts of things that he encounters on his strolls, from bees to beavers, scarecrows to owls and even his cats make an appearance a few times. Keeping his sanity by taking longs walks in the country around his Devon home gives him plenty of time to consider the world. All the subjects he tackles begin with a narrow focus, before becoming wider ranging and, for me, much more interesting.
He is fascinated equally by the ghosts of the past as he concerned by the future of the countryside, but what makes 21st-Century Yokel such a really good book is that it defies categorisation. Part of this reason behind this is because Cox writes about what he wants to without following any set agenda, and partly this is because this reflects modern life and all its distractions where you start on one project, get distracted by something else, wander off to get an item and arrive back four hours later wondering why you were starting that in the first place. Because of this, the book feels fresh and interesting, it has its poignant moments, the chapter on scarecrows is really quite creepy and is a great example of modern folklore, His VERY LOUD DAD makes me laugh every time he appears in the narrative too. This rich and varied book is not quite many things, but one thing it is, is fantastic.
Paul Cheney 5/4
21st-Century Yokel by Tom Cox
Unbound 9781783524563 hbk Nov 2017
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