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The Farmer's Son: Calving Season on a Family…
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The Farmer's Son: Calving Season on a Family Farm (editie 2019)

door John Connell (Auteur), Alan Smith (Verteller)

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"For fans of The Shepherd's Life, a poignant memoir -- and #1 Irish bestseller -- about a wayward son's return home to his family's farm, and how he found a new beginning in an age-old world Farming has been in John Connell's family for generations, but he never intended to follow in his father's footsteps. Until, one winter, after more than a decade away, he finds himself back on the farm. Connell records the hypnotic rhythm of the farming day -- cleaning the barns, caring for the herd, tending to sickly lambs, helping the cows give birth. Alongside the routine events, there are the unforeseen moments when things go wrong: when a calf fails to thrive, when a sheep goes missing, when illness breaks out, when an argument between father and son erupts and things are said that cannot be unsaid. The Farmer's Son is the story of a calving season, and the story of a man who emerges from depression to find hope in the place he least expected to find it. It is the story of Connell's life as a farmer, and of his relationship with the community of County Longford, with his faith, with the animals he tends, and, above all, with his father." --… (meer)
Lid:ShanLand
Titel:The Farmer's Son: Calving Season on a Family Farm
Auteurs:John Connell (Auteur)
Andere auteurs:Alan Smith (Verteller)
Info:HighBridge Audio (2019), Edition: Unabridged
Verzamelingen:Jouw bibliotheek
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Trefwoorden:to-read

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The Farmer's Son: Calving Season on a Family Farm door John Connell

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There is a certain genre of book which specialises in selling a misty-eyed view of Ireland overseas, particularly to Irish-Americans whose knowledge of the country begins and ends with Aran jumpers and Danny Boy. It's a cynical genre, but The Farmer's Son (originally published as The Cow Book) manages to outstrip most within it because of how much it tries to pretend that that's not what it is.

The Farmer's Son is a memoir of roughly four months in the life of John Connell, the eponymous son, returned to live on his family's farm in Longford after several years in Australia and Canada. Recovering from a bout of depression that had led to the end of a relationship, Connell tends to the cattle and sheep, squabbles with his father, takes up running, and broods.

There is the kernel of something interesting here, an exploration of the tensions felt between the generation that came of age in Celtic Tiger Ireland and its parents, of the conflicting pull towards a long-standing rural lifestyle structured around community and deep ties to the land and the social and economic realities of life in 21st-century Ireland. Connell punts on dealing with any of these issues in a sustained way, though—and, my sense is, because he's always got one eye on the kind of middlebrow urban reader who might pick this up and want to feel smug about connecting with the real modern rural Ireland, yah?

Except so much about The Farmer's Son doesn't ring true to someone who's from the Midlands. ""Oíche mhaith, Ma," I say, which is the old language for "goodnight."" Why would he randomly switch into Irish when Longford hasn't been a Gaeltacht for generations? Why refer to Irish as "the old language"? Who does that? This is twee fantasy, not how we speak. But in a book which not only feels it has to stop and explain who St Brigit is, but refers to "members of parliament" rather than TDs, perhaps this is par for the course. The intended audience lives far from Connell's native townlands.

Interspersed throughout the book are snippets of facts about the history of the cow. I can only imagine that they were introduced at the suggestion of an editor to add some semblance of heft and depth to the proceedings, although they read very much like excerpts from the paper of a bright but lazy undergraduate who's decided to skim Wikipedia and do a bit of paraphrasing. They were irritating enough to tip me over from a two-star rating to a one-star rating. Connell is keen to present himself as someone who's thought deeply about Irish history and myth—the Famine and Cromwell are mentioned more than once; parallels are drawn between the Irish experiences of colonialism and those of Native Americans and Indigenous Australians.

Are there parallels there? Sure! Was Cromwell a murderous fucker? Undoubtedly! But you cannot in good faith discuss this and not talk about how Irish people were also complicit in colonialism! We stole land, too; we were the civil servants and infantry of Empire in the Raj and North America and Australia. You cannot write about what happened in the Americas and lean so heavily on the passive voice—the cattle "colonized" (did they?) but Native Americans "were moved" (by whom?) while white Euro-Americans "migrate" (is it possible that they, in fact, were the colonisers?)

And all of this is recounted in the affectless tone of a 20-something white man who's read a lot of Hemingway and is still impressed by him, who thinks that using chiasmus is the same as being smart, and who throughout writes in a kind of faux-archaic language (no contractions; 'for' instead of 'because', 'but' for 'only', etc) that I'm sure Connell thinks will sound suitably sonorous and ageless to the foreign reader without actually confronting them with, you know, real Midlands Irish syntax.

The most enjoyment I got from The Farmer's Son was imagining the reactions my father or late grandfather—both Midlands dairy farmers—would have to certain passages if I read them aloud. I'm betting my dad would roll his eyes and heave out a weary "Aye", while my much blunter granddad would have asked "What class of a stook altogether wrote that?" ( )
  siriaeve | Sep 8, 2021 |
I may be very wrong about this, but when I read a book written by a knowledgeable Irish farmer who raises beef cattle (and he tells us their breeds), I have to wonder why the cover photo is of Holsteins (dairy cows). But never mind, that's not Connell's fault. Just saying.

I loved James Rebanks' "The Shepherd's Life," so hoped for something like. Sort of, but well short.

John Connell, at 29, has returned to his family farm in Ireland - in return for a place to live and write, back with his aging parents, he works - oh lord, how he works - to help run the farm. He has lived in Canada, in Australia, been a journalist and a film producer, and now is back home, in a strangely enervated state. Now he births calves and lambs, and often watches them sicken and die. He moves manure, hauls feed, suffers from relentlessly cold and drenching weather, and fights with his self-righteous, demanding, ill-tempered old man. Or tries not to, with varying success. He seems to be pretty miserable. In what little he reveals of his previous life, he sounds like he was miserable then too. The tone of the writing is almost unfailingly affectless, flat, objective. He describes horrifically difficult births and diseases that nearly - or do - kill cows, ewes, and/or their offspring, in the same emotional register as he describes the ancient history of aurochs. He recalls a bullfight he attended in Spain, blandly depicting the torture of the bull and noting in Hemingwayesque language how "taut and strong" the matador's legs were, his turns "true and brave." (ugh) He also notes that his fiancee wouldn't eat the meat from the dead bull, but passes zero comment or judgment. He writes about a morally monstrous big game hunter in Australia in carefully neutered terms. Has he *no* emotional or moral reaction to these things? He can and does approach tenderness when he manages to rescue a dying animal, and speaks of reading the nature of a cow when he looks into her eyes. The animals are individuals (though they do not give them names), whom he knows, respects, and cares for. He decries American factory farming, and muses that if he takes over the farm, he would want to go the organic route, and clings to the European style of small-scale farms that allows the animals to live healthy, decent lives, well-treated to the end. And yet... when he and his father have a nasty blowup, he seems to have little qualm about retreating to his room and refusing to undertake any chores, leaving his Da and Mam to take care of everything, even when a lambing goes wrong, all in the name of "standing up for himself." He manages to overlook dead or dying stock in trouble in the field, he doesn't get around to checking on a group of cows in a distant pasture even as their food runs short (they're fine, he reports when his mother angrily orders him to go out there). He goes for long runs, he talks philosophy with the local priest. He broods.

It is finally revealed that he has emerged from a 6-month stint of deep depression and mania, and is just finding his feet. Though he professes to find his life on the farm beautiful and important, and intends to try to continue to be both a farmer and a writer, this anhedonic, almost anesthetized, book isn't encouraging. Yes, it's probably honest; it's small Irish farming warts and all. But as he seems to be so lacking in emotion as he explores it, he failed to evoke much emotion in me either. ( )
  JulieStielstra | May 17, 2021 |
An intimate look into one family's traditional cattle and sheep ranch in rural Ireland. An unusually beautiful account of a very demanding way of life. I leave the book with a new appreciation for cows and bulls. ( )
  dele2451 | Oct 9, 2019 |
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"For fans of The Shepherd's Life, a poignant memoir -- and #1 Irish bestseller -- about a wayward son's return home to his family's farm, and how he found a new beginning in an age-old world Farming has been in John Connell's family for generations, but he never intended to follow in his father's footsteps. Until, one winter, after more than a decade away, he finds himself back on the farm. Connell records the hypnotic rhythm of the farming day -- cleaning the barns, caring for the herd, tending to sickly lambs, helping the cows give birth. Alongside the routine events, there are the unforeseen moments when things go wrong: when a calf fails to thrive, when a sheep goes missing, when illness breaks out, when an argument between father and son erupts and things are said that cannot be unsaid. The Farmer's Son is the story of a calving season, and the story of a man who emerges from depression to find hope in the place he least expected to find it. It is the story of Connell's life as a farmer, and of his relationship with the community of County Longford, with his faith, with the animals he tends, and, above all, with his father." --

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