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What really goes on in the long grass? Meadowland give an unique and intimate account of an English meadow's life from January to December, together with its biography. In exquisite prose, John Lewis Stempel records the passage of the seasons from cowslips in spring to the hay-cutting of summer and grazing in autumn, and includes the biographies of the animals that inhabit the grass and the soil beneath: the badger clan, the fox family, the rabbit warren, the skylark brood, the curlew pair, among others. Their births, lives, and deaths are stories that thread through Meadowland from first page to last. Meadowland is a love song to our land, as well as a book of nature writing in the tradition of Jeffries, Mabey and Deakin.
John Lewis-Stempel is a writer and farmer. His many previous books include The Wild Life: A Year of Living on Wild Food, England: the Autobiography and the bestselling Six Weeks: The Short and Gallant Life of the British Officer in the First World War. He reviews books for the Sunday Express, for whom he also writes a regular column, and is a regular speaker on radio and at literary events and book festivals. He lives on the borders of England and Wales with his wife and two children.
"My book of the year. Meadowland is a seasonal journey of discovery, a pilgrimage that nurtures the soul and gives meaning to life; all life. Each beautifully crafted sentence provides a stepping-stone to absorb and understand the land, with the writer's lyrical voice acting as guide and trusty staff as well as illuminating the mind's eye with wonderful imagery and perceptive literary devices."
– Stuart Winter, Sunday Express
"Fascinating [...] Books have been written about entire countries that contain a less interesting cast of characters than Lewis-Stempel's account of one field on the edge of Wales. Foxes, red kites and voles become as intricately shaded as characters in an HBO drama, the readers' sympathies swinging between them and their adversaries. Not every English meadow contains such a vast variety of wildlife as Lewis-Stempel's, and he's lucky to live somewhere so unspoilt, but his immense, patient powers of observation – along with a flair for the anthropomorphic – mean he is able to offer a portrait of animal life that's rare in its colour and drama. Lewis-Stempel's eye for detail and the poetic imagery of sentences such as "Behind me the river shouts with the abandon of a football crowd" or "Someone has stirred the clouds into milk pudding" are reminiscent of the late, brilliant Roger Deakin [...] There is barely a creature in Meadowland that I didn't learn at least one interesting new fact about (the occasional tendency of badgers to hold funerals for one another is a particular favourite)."
– Tom Cox, Observer
"Engaging, closely-observed and beautiful [...] this author's deep love of the world around him is as inspiring as it is entertaining. This wonderful book [...] is most of all, a moving hymn of gratitude from a man so rooted, so full of joy that he likens his land to a cathedral and knows that: 'To stand alone in a field in England and listen to the morning chorus of the birds is to remember why life is precious'."
– Bel Mooney, Daily Mail
"[JLS] has a sharp eye, a fluent pen and that omnivorous, innocently English curiosity about wild creatures [...] There are lyrical moments aplenty but this is not the cloying 'regardez-moi maman' nature writing. JLS's tone is level, involved, humorous and even self-deprecating [...] This is a rich, interesting book, generously studded with raisins of curious information."
– Angus Clarke, The Times
"My holiday reading: [John Lewis-Stempel] knows not only all about the different kinds of life in such a place and how they all fit together, but can also write so vividly."
– Philip Pullman, The Guardian