John Stewart Collis
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A beautiful lost classic of English countryside literature. During the Second World War, John Stewart Collis volunteered to leave his comfortable life as an academic to work on the land for the war effort. His account of this time on farms in Dorset and Sussex perfectly captures the city-dweller's naivety and wonder both at the workings of nature and the toughness of life on a farm.
The book comprises exquisitely written sections on whatever happens to take Collis' fancy and inspire his thoughtful curiosity, ranging from humorous sketches of the characters he works alongside, mini essays such as 'Contemplation upon Ants', 'The Mystery of Clouds', 'Colloquy on the Rick', 'Meditation while Singling Marigolds', 'The Garden of Eden', and celebrations of the earthworm, pea and potato. The book also includes 'The Wood' which focuses on his time restoring a woodland.
His mind ranges far and wide with amazing descriptive writing, which makes for a book that is enchanting. Collis writes about a fascinating period in agriculture and rural life when mechanisation was arriving, but much of the traditional farming ways were still in place.