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La Vie: A year in rural France

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Throughout the novel, he notes which birds are singing; and just occasionally, those brief times in the annual calendar when there is seemingly no birdsong at all.

The Private Life of the Hare - Penguin Books UK

La Vie describes a year of his family living in the village, putting down roots and enjoying their new life. He won the 2017 Wainwright Prize with another shortlisted book, Where Poppies Blow, about British soldiers and their relationship with nature in World War I. For many years a farmer in England, John Lewis-Stempel yearned once again to live in a landscape where turtle doves purr and nightingales sing, as they did almost everywhere in his childhood.

Over that first year, Lewis-Stempel fell in love with the French countryside, from the wild boar that trot past the kitchen window to the glow-worms and citronella candles that flicker in the evening garden. But it’s his observation of the natural world – the sight, the sound, the smell of it – that is so memorable.

John Lewis-Stempel - Penguin Books UK John Lewis-Stempel - Penguin Books UK

To see a hare sit still as stone, to watch a hare boxing on a frosty March morning, to witness a hare bolt . He is the only person to have won the Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing twice, with Meadowland and Where Poppies Blow. John Lewis-Stempel sets off from the UK to the rural far west of France - la France profonde - where he and his wife settle to a farming life in a draughty house with a small menagerie of pets and farm animals and a few acres of vineyards.This heartfelt, evocative book shows that woods such as Cockshutt, which has stood since before “the Romans trod their road to Hereford”, occupy a special place in both the countryside and our psyches. It was not the kind of letter they were accustomed to receiving, and it was one that would make history. Over that first year, John falls in love with the French countryside and living the good life – or as the French say, La Vie.

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