Year of a Hundred Books – #16 Return to Akenfield

Return to AkenfieldReturn to Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village in the 21st Century,

by Craig Taylor


Okay, so I know I said that I wouldn’t write about any more history books, and technically I’m sticking to that. Return to Akenfield is in essence a journalistic look at life in 21st Century rural suffolk, and only becomes a piece of historical interest when compared to its parent book, Akenfield.
Written in 1969, the author Ronald Blythe (who features in Return to Akenfield conducted a series of interviews with people in a couple of farming villages (Akenfield itself is a fictional amalgamation), to create a picture of what life was like and had been like in this little corner of the world, one of the first pieces of Oral History to reach the mainstream consciousness (Predating the more famous work of Studs Turkel by about a year).
Much has changed in “Akenfield” since the 60s, almost beyond all recognition. I’m not one to mourn the passing of “the good old days”, but hearing farmers talking about the changes in their industry and their side of the debate on farming standards has made me think more about the role of supermarkets in society, and the problems they raise for the future.
I think, perhaps, Return to Akenfield isn’t as interesting as Akenfield, but that might just be my personal bias coming into it. Either way, they’re both fascinating reads for what they are.

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