AKENFIELD by Ronald Blythe


Portrait of an English Village
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Though he’s published other books mostly in his native England, Blythe will always be remembered for this contemporary masterwork: an oral history of a rural English village composed in 1969, before the form became a domestic trend. As Blythe explains in a recent preface, his goal was simply to write from within the community he depicts as “an indigenous voice,” not as a visiting anthropologist. Kirkus recognized Blythe’s achievement as “a real-life Spoon River Anthology,” with 49 varied speakers all confronting the changing face of agricultural England. “Behind their words,” we said, “pulses the eternal rhythm” of the seasons, and nostalgia by the old and enthusiasm by the young. Identifying the pseudonymous town as largely Charsfield, Blythe today notes a “recovered respect for nature” by its present-day inhabitants. Back in 1969, Kirkus praised this “cinéma vérité in prose” as “an evocative and provocative social documentary.” Today, we might see it simply as a work of art.

Pub Date: May 15th, 2001
ISBN: 1-58579-009-5
Page count: 287pp
Publisher: Akadine/Trafalgar
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2001