Sunday book review – Divide by Anna Jones

This book, by farmer’s daughter and now-journalist and media presenter Anna Jones, is one of the most enjoyable and interesting books I have read this year – and I write that in full knowledge that in a few weeks I’ll be choosing my books of the year (click here for 2021’s list).

It examines the relationship between country folk and urban dwellers – is one group more misunderstood than the other? The eight chapters examine Home, Work, Politics, Diversity, Animals, Food, Environment and Community and each takes the form of the author’s own experiences and the thoughts and opinions of others, from her family, friends, workmates and people at music festivals, parties etc.

This approach worked well because the author has spent quite a lot of time in the countryside, and various towns and cities in the UK and she has travelled abroad too. So she has many personal experiences which are interesting, and a fairly wide perspective. It’s a personal experience plus vox-pop approach to the subjects rather than a data-driven analysis but it works well and is both enjoyable and stimulating.

The chapter on Animals is largely about animal welfare. The stories about the miserable sheep, and of what the dog brought to a guest at the author’s 26th birthday party were both very much to the point – anecdotes, yes, but telling anecdotes. But whether the authors of two recent books by vets that I have reviewed here (Treated Like Animals and Through a Vet’s Eyes) would agree with the author of this book would be interesting to discover.  I’d be interested to hear them discuss these matters.

There isn’t a lot about wildlife in here, nor is there much about the transfer of money from the towns to the countryside in the way that the taxpayer supports farming, but no book can cover everything and there is a lot here about people, animals and quite a lot about the complexities of carbon too.

There is the usual tendency of anyone from the farming community to equate the countryside with farming and one finds very little mention of forestry or ‘fieldsports’, or really of tourism, which would have featured more strongly in other treatments of these issues. But all of that is a comment, a description, not a criticism. This is a fascinating book and I’m really glad that it was written and that I have read it.

The author comes across as thoughtful and open-minded. Because of her background she tends to start in a fairly predictable position on most issues but has moved somewhat over time. That’s probably what happens to all of us – if we are thoughtful and open-minded.

The cover? Yes, it’s good and, fair enough, the idealised image of the countryside is a bit like that, but the town in the background has gone a bit too far towards New York City for me. But I like it, and I like the slash through the title, so I will give it a rare 9/10.

Divide: the relationship crisis between town and country by Anna Jones is published by Kyle Books.


2 Replies to “Sunday book review – Divide by Anna Jones”

  1. This sounds like an interesting book that I’d definitely like to read.
    I’d also be interested to read a book about the divide between the rural population and farming which I feel is very large, especially in intensively farmed landscapes.
    When writing to my MP I get the feeling that they think of Country folk and city folk as completely different and that country folk would be entirely supportive of anything to do with the farmed landscape!
    If there’s already a book like that out there please feel free to recommend it to me.

  2. Interesting comment from Geoff and spot on. The farming ‘community’ and the rural community are definitely not the same thing.

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