Friday 22 December 2017

The Secret Life of Cows by Rosamund Young

You know you're in for a real treat when the book you pick up starts with a letter from Alan Bennett.

The Secret Life of Cows by Rosamund Young was first published in 2003 and is a lovely little book full of anecdotes about the cows (and hens, pigs and sheep) on her farm, Kite's Nest in Worcestershire.

Alan Bennett wrote about his reading experience with this book in 2006. He then added the diary entry to his 2016 biography, Keeping On, Keeping On. On the strength of this, the wonderful people at Faber & Faber decided to reprint The Secret Life of Cows.

I'm so delighted that they did and that they did so with such a lovely hardback, illustrated gift edition. (You can see some of Anna Koska's beautiful illustrations here.)

It's the perfect read for me at this time of the year when I'm SUPER busy at work and constantly feeling too tired to read anything complicated or challenging. It was also good for soothing my sometimes cynical and often jaded soul at this time of year.

Young and her family have a lovely, creative habit of naming each cow and bull. We meet Dolly I & Dolly II, Fat Hat, July Bonnet, Wizzie, Mr Mini, the Bishops of Gloucester and Worchester and the utterly charming Amelia, just to name a few of the characters that grace these pages.

Young provides amusing stories about cows who sniff car exhausts, learn to open gates or don't like muddy hooves, and more poignant ones like mothers who help their daughters calve, cows who seek out human help when in trouble and cows who grieve.

Kite's Nest was an organic, free-range farm before such terms were coined. The cows (& other animals) live good lives here. They are encouraged to eat what they like, when they like and they're allowed to roam (within reason) to seek out family, friends and favourite places to relax and socialise.

This is not a scientific treatise. It's a memoir with cows. As such, each lovely anecdote meanders on to the next, revealing quirky personalities, medical curiosities like their ability to self-medicate with thistles, willow and stinging nettles and the extraordinary, often life-long relationships that develop amongst the cows themselves, as well as with their human carers.

The Secret Life of Cows is perfect for anyone with a love of animals or the simple life, or for anyone who needs to be soothed and calmed by a gentle read.

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