Thank the gods of agriculture for James Rebanks ... We experience that esoteric life through Rebanks’s evocative storytelling ... Rebanks is generous with his descriptions, and patient in explaining the choices farmers make every day that will decide the fate of rural communities and the planet itself ... Rebanks shows clearly that hope hinges on who exactly is willing to pay the real price of food and good farming.
Superbly written and deeply insightful, the book captivates the reader until the journey’s end ... Mr. Rebanks’s arguments are cogent and rational: He warms to each of his themes without boiling over and resorting to hot-headed stridency ... The book is at its most compelling when it revolves around the author and his 'journey' ... Lyrical flourishes routinely enrich Mr. Rebanks’s prose ... Pastoral Song is a lament for lost traditions, a celebration of a way of living and a reminder that nature is 'finite and breakable'. Mr. Rebanks hits all the right notes and deserves to be heard.
Rebanks’ passion...permeates Pastoral Song ... His quiet strength and vision for the land is here. And perhaps more importantly, the story of his farm (and farming in general) over the last three generations is here, too ... Rebanks offers a sensible way to think about food and the planet. His answer may not appeal to everyone ... The book evinces...quiet, humble, patient strength ... His prose will transport readers, introducing them to both the harsh realities and the joys of everyday life on a piece of land that has deep, personal meaning ... Readers will close the book, as we left Rebanks’ farm, nourished by his vision and his hope.
'Do we want a countryside that is entirely shaped by industrial-scale cheap food production with some little islands of wilderness dotted in amongst it, or do we, in at least some places, also value the traditional landscape as shaped by traditional family farms?' Pastoral Song...compels us to grapple with that question, and it is, if anything, even more urgent and eloquent than its predecessor ... a wide-ranging defense of traditional farming grounded in history and biology ... Rebanks is neither a philosopher nor a Jeffersonian agrarian idealist. A product of centuries of righteous peasant judgment, he speaks with blunt, unmatched authority. He is also a fine writer with descriptive power and a gift for characterization. Pastoral Song is full of memorable portraits of his children, parents, and grandparents ... Rebanks does not balk at confronting readers with the brutality of all farming, and, by extension, human existence[.]
Rebanks offers a realistic perspective on the demands of farming as a profession ... He invites readers into his most intimate moments ... Pastoral Song honors old and new ways and is a testament to Rebanks’s own curiosity and tenacity ... Part lament, part manifesto, this book does what most critical books about agriculture fail to accomplish—it acknowledges the value of nature and provides a convincing argument that humans have a necessary role in it—only, however, if we are enduring enough to stay, and pay attention, and live quietly within our means.
[A] lyrical and passionate book ... Rebanks’s first book, The Shepherd’s Life, was a bestseller. English Pastoral will be too ... I was gripped from the very first paragraph ... [Rebanks] has shone a brilliant light onto a world about which the vast majority of people know little. However, such is the sweeping nature of his polemic that there is a danger some readers will come away from the book assuming all modern farming is environmentally destructive ... Rebanks is at his best when focusing on his home patch rather than railing against economists, supermarkets and cheap food.
The heavy percussion of his polemic sometimes overwhelms the rhythm of Rebanks’s prose; he’s more persuasive when he lets personal experience speak for him ... Rapturous metaphors become his way of both honoring and conserving nature ... farming and writing have proved complementary: while working long hours on the land, he has produced a book in a pastoral tradition that runs from Virgil to Wendell Berry.
Rebanks makes a strong, measured argument for a sensible mix between the old and the new ... Rebanks' lifetime spent farming gives this book its credibility; his sensible tone gives it its power. And his eloquence describing his beloved farm gives it its beauty.
Whether he recounts handpicking a field full of weeds or herding pooping cows back home down a country road, a sense of place is engagingly captured in stark, readable prose ... As the narrative progresses, more and more space is given to banal calls to action, which, if backed up with deep insights or genuinely new ideas, would be tolerable. But Rebanks has nothing new to offer, and what inarguable points he does make—biodiversity is good, eating locally grown food is beneficial to the environment—he does with vague sentiments ... He discards concrete details for abstract ideas ... The main problem with the book is the unevenness between its dual parts: the memoir aspects are fascinating; the essayistic parts are bad.
[A] beautifully written elegy to traditional farmers and farming methods ... [An] eloquent tribute to a vanishing way of life ... A lovely cautionary tale filled with pride, hope, and respect for the land and its history.
[A] lyrical ode to traditional farming ... The narrative interweaves tender reflections on the rhythms of farm life with pointed discussions of the differences between traditional and modern methods ... Shot through with lyrical prose and intimate family memories, this is an immersive and stimulating call for change.