After a 10-year absence pursuing journalism in Toronto and a relationship that fizzled, an aspiring novelist returns to his family's farm in Ireland, where he finds a sense of purpose and a subject matter worthy of writerly attention.
Writers often pack a lot into their debuts, tapping into material they’ve been cultivating for years. A case in point is The Farmer’s Son, John Connell’s unusually rich memoir ... His meditation on the importance of home and the solace of a place that roots and defines you should resonate even with far-flung urban readers ... There is a soothing quality to Mr. Connell’s refreshingly direct, declarative sentences ... But The Farmer’s Son struck me more as a Charlotte’s Web for grownups than a Walden—and I mean this as a compliment. It’s a gorgeous evocation of farm life’s recurring cycle of births, deaths, seasons, weather, chores and life lessons, all spun into a lovely web of stories illuminated by crystalline prose ... What comes through on every page is Mr. Connell’s heart and humility—and his profound appreciation for the animals who depend on him for their well-being, and vice versa. He may be raising beef cattle, but his instincts are not cutthroat ... the grind of farm work ... does make for gripping reading ... The short chapters rarely leave time for boredom, though occasionally one wishes for a sustained narrative to burrow into. Even so, The Farmer’s Son is the opposite of a frenetic read.
The Farmer’s Son is part memoir, part classic father-son battle and part history (of Ireland and of cows), and all of those pieces work quite well together; it is a fascinating read. Connell is a thoughtful, serious writer, deeply observant. The book moves slowly, covering just four months in 200 pages, but it never drags ... His memoir is infused with his love of nature... but it is devoid of sentimentality ... Connell’s writing style is formal—no contractions, sometimes arcane constructions ... A bestseller in Ireland, The Farmer’s Son is a powerful, beautiful story about the tug of land, the meaning of home and one man’s place in the world.
I never thought I would enjoy a book about Irish cattle and sheep farming. But I certainly enjoyed The Farmer’s Son ... He speaks clearly and honestly of his 'past,' as he refers to his bout of depression ... The Farmer’s Son resonated with me ... I found it comforting, gentle and just a good read. I hope you like it too.