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I was lent this book by a friend, who had yet to read it. The back cover sounded interesting, so I picked it up and sat down.
Kit has been living in Australia for ten years when he's called back to Devon due to his fathers death. His mother had died years previously, and Kit being an only child, he had to return to sort out his fathers estate.
The estate in question, is a few hundred acres of part organic farmland and part nature reserve.
As Kit faces his childhood home, he is forced to decide whether to sell the estate or try to live there. Thoughts of his girlfriend and life in the sun of Oz makes the decision seem easy, but what happens along the way?
I have to say, I was entertained yet disappointed with this book. Some things just weren't as good as they could be. People aren't always described very well, though the characters of the people are. The area of the reserve is described brilliantly, but the sex scenes are definitely flowery. And how Kit decides to be with the person the book leaves him with is definitely sketchy. And a little baffling, to be honest.
It's nothing earth shattering, or Oscar film making. It's an easy to read story, but it won't ruin your day if you don't pick it up. Not to take anything away from the story, it's great for a winters day when it's raining outside, the housework is done and the dog is asleep by the fire/radiator.
I know this is quite a short review for a book, but really that's all the book gave me. It's an average read, so nothing to gush over but nothing to really complain about either
- The Author -
The author, Alan Titchmarsh started his working life as a gardener, and has now written fiction books and autobiographies, as well as those aimed at gardeners.
He is also a well-known TV personality, noted especially for his gardening and natural world programmes, but has also been associated with many other types of programmes.
- Background to the Plot -
The plot is about a man, now living in Australia, who inherits an estate in Devon when his father dies.
The son, Kit Lavery, at first thinks that he will come back to Devon to settle his father's affairs, sell the estate as quickly as he can and then resume his life in Australia.
When he returns to his childhood home, his loyalties become split though. The conservation work that his father did on his own land, bringing back or keeping rare species safe there, may all be spoilt if Kit sells up.
The late Rupert Lavery believed in trying to change things by letting people see what he felt strongly about by the example he set. He hated what he considered to be cruel sports, but as well as disapproving of the actions of the hunt saboteurs, he also thought that this was the wrong way to try to get things changed. Conservation, in different ways, was important to those on both sides of the argument. He felt that trying to understand the point of view of others, even though not agreeing with it, put him in the strongest position to try to change their minds. Kit bears this in mind when trying to decide what he should do.
I think that Kit, the main character was, like the plot, a bit underdeveloped, but I was impressed with the way some of the "co-stars" were portrayed. Here are my two favourites.
The first is Titus Ormonroyd, huntsman and straight-talking Yorkshireman. His job of looking after the hounds sees him taking on a helper at the kennels who hates fox hunting, but loves the day to day caring for the dogs. Kit's father had always got on well with Titus, maintaining that they were two men approaching the same problem from different angles, as they both wanted to conserve the countryside, even though Rupert hated the cruelty involved in fox hunting.
The other is Wilson (named after our 1960s Prime Minister), who is a female Gloucestershire Old Sport Pig. Wilson is a good listener and gets told all sorts of confidences, at all times of the day and night, without repeating them. She is even more placid when given tasty treats such as apples, or a good scratch with a stick from the person needing her attention. These encounters are occasionally made more productive when a reply comes from a human voice, in the form of an eavesdropper.
- Conclusion -
I think that this book is an entertaining light read with a fast plot about important countryside matters, as well a bit of lust and romance. Though I feel that a better fiction writer would have given the good plot more depth, especially the part dealing with suicide and euthasnasia. Perhaps it was the author's intention not to dwell on these serious subjects for too long because he preferred to write a light-hearted story.
The characters are quite good, but I felt that some of the co-staring characters were better portrayed than the main one.
The way that countryside issues are explored shows that the author loves the natural world and doesn't want it spoilt, though both sides of the arguments are given through the different characters.
Although I don't think that this is destined to be a classic, for a gardener, Alan Titchmarsh makes an entertaining novelist, combining serious subjects with some humour.
So give it a try if you want a relatively undemanding read about goings on in the countryside.
List Price: £6.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Pocket September 2004
Following the death of his father, the owner of East Yarmouth Animal Sanctuary, Kit Lavery returns to Britain from Australia to sort out his father's affairs. His visit is intended to be brief, but on arrival at the down-at-heel animal sanctuary, Kit finds it staffed by two very determined women. Elizabeth Punch and Jess Wetherby. Elizabeth is a woman with a mission - to save animals from inconsiderate man. And Jess Supple has one burning desire - to keep alive the work of the old man who took her under his wing when she was a placard-waving hunt saboteur. As the two women cajole, berate and demand that Kit stay and carry on his father's good work, he finds life becoming increasingly complicated. And when GM crop trials are proposed in the fields surrounding his farm, his scruples are tested to the limit, and not everyone is happy with his decision. It seems that blood may be spilt before the Animal Sanctuary, with its assorted inhabitants, is out of the woods.