Out of the Valley: Another Year at Wormingford

Article excerpt

Out of the Valley: Another Year at Wormingford. By Ronald Blythe. London: Viking Press, 2000. 304 pp. L16.99.

Ronald Blythe, simply and a bit modestly, calls his latest book, Out of The Valley: Another Year At Wormingford, a "country journal." It is a series of sketches of rural life in the Stour Valley written for the Church Times during three years from 1996 to 1999. "These little essays," he says, "reflect the pattern which literature, liturgy, the seasons and solitude has made of my existence" (p. 1). They also reflect a great deal more.

Mr. Blythe, author of Akenfield: Portrait of An English Village, and Word From Wormingford, is perhaps one of the most gifted authors writing about English country life today. He is also a devoted Anglican Lay Reader and preacher. We see him as he faithfully makes his rounds to the remote parishes of Wormingford, Mount Bures and Little Horesley In this book, he records his daily outings, his thoughts and reflections from the Book of Common Prayer, Scripture (the Psalms, Jeremiah and Luke are favorites), church history and his reading of George Herbert, Traherne, Bonhoeffer, poets John Clare and James Turner, and Richard Rolle.

Mr. Blythe has lived his whole life in Suffolk and is well versed in the homely and sometimes harsh ways of country life. Though a writer, he is never far from nature, whether he is watching a flock of starlings swoop and swerve with the same awe as Coleridge, or enjoying Max, his "freethinking" cat. He observes the annual round of sowers and barley harvesters, goes stubblewalking, and contemplates how the modern combine has forever changed life for rural farmers. …