A thoughtful and deliciously entertaining collection.



British columnist Rogers serves up an extremely palatable mix of historical fact, local color, and the necessary pinch of gravitas, as urban ways spread ever deeper into what was once rural England.

Twelve sections, from “Approaches in Time” to “Exits,” contain previously published columns offering a wry, intelligent status report on rural life. Rogers first describes how in 1980 he and his family bought a small cottage in the Northamptonshire village of Blakesley, moving to the country for reasons both sentimental and practical, as do many others. These newcomers, he notes, have dramatically changed village life: most of the men leave home before 9 a.m. to commute to city jobs, and townsfolk no longer bound by the land have little in common and do not know one another. This has been going on since the 1850s, when for the first time more British people lived in cities than in the countryside. Today, 84 percent of the population visits visits rural areas as a nostalgia-driven “leisure activity.” Going against the current nostalgia for all things rural, Rogers demonstrates that life in the country has always been hard. People were pushed off the land in the Middle Ages when wool became king (more than 13,000 acres in the Midlands alone were turned into sheep ranches between 1485 and 1500), and villagers later lost their right to common grazing land when hedges were planted. Not all the wealthy preyed on the poor: the author portrays one squire who generously paid for much-needed improvements while housing his mistresses in village cottages. Along his way, Rogers meets with local aristocrats like Sir George Sitwell, talks to farmers overwhelmed by bureaucracy and to the village’s oldest inhabitant, who has seen the horse replaced by the car, a Methodist Chapel turned into a showroom, and the railway station fall out of use.

A thoughtful and deliciously entertaining collection.

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-85410-882-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Aurum/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2003

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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