Described by Roger Deakin as ‘subtle and compassionate’ and by John Updike as ‘exquisite’, Akenfield is a portrait of an English village in the middle years of the 1960s, made up from the words of three generations of its inhabitants. Blythe’s records his conversations with the villagers with the accurate sympathy of an insider, and fleshes out his account with a certain amount of factual detail concerning the economics of village life, but Akenfield itself did not exist, being a composite of Charsfield in Suffolk, the author’s own adjoining village of Debach, and a few surrounding hamlets. In 2004 the Canadian writer Craig Taylor decided to revisit ‘Akenfield’, and conducted a series of interviews with its contemporary residents, including Ronald Blythe himself. The resulting book is a masterpiece of oral history, both humorous and moving, and set to become a classic in its own right.
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