My Thoughts & Review
As a fan of Val Poore’s Dutch canal boating memoir series Watery Ways, Walloon Ways and Harbour Ways (she has also written memoirs about life on an African farm) I knew that she could write and write well, but in this book, one of her forays into fiction, I was surprised how enjoyable it was.
I absolutely loved this book. I was up half the night reading it and nearly missed a doctor’s appointment the next day because I was so absorbed it it I lost track of time.
Maisie, the main character has graduated from university and moved back to live in an apartment in her mother’s house, a sprawling rural small holding in Dorset, with all kinds of assorted buildings and unused barns. Her mother and aunt also live at the property, albeit in separate apartments. Both ladies are rather eccentric, her mother markedly so because she wears fading ball gowns and sometimes her wedding dress as regular attire (a la Miss Haversham only more charming) Both ladies are exceptional characters and have hearts of gold and fully support Maisie’s endeavours to turn the place into something resembling a working farm to raise a herd of Jacob’s sheep to use their wool for spinning yarn. Maisie has a friend Jeannie who has been brought up on a local farm and is more down to earth about what is possible to achieve and what’s frankly ludicrous. Her photographer boyfriend Simon has also joined her living at the property but his help at first is sporadic as he’s often away on shoots.
One of Maisie’s not too sensible ideas is to keep all the sheep raised and never sell any at market. She also slowly turns all the old barns into stabling for horses to bring in some profit to fund the quest. A gaggle of geese join the menagerie and also a few chickens.
The two girls attend the local livestock market, where a local Ralph a local old farmer helps her to purchase her first Jacob’s sheep for a knock down by outwitting the auctioneer Alec who has quite a disturbing effect on Maisie.
The book is semi-biographical and much of it is taken from the author’s own experiences trying to keep sheep and other animals in a similar situation.
There are many laugh out loud moments throughout the book but it’s also very interesting and heart warming.
I think with a more updated cover and perhaps a different title this book has a lot of potential and I could even see a series about Maisie’s life on this Dorset smallholding. I would definitely like to read more about such richly drawn characters
and I was sad when it ended. Highly recommended
About The Author
Val Poore was born in London, England, and grew up in both north London and the west of Dorset. After completing her degree in English, History and French at Bournemouth, she took a further course in the conservation and restoration of museum artefacts at Lincoln College of Art which qualified her for nothing at all really. She then spent two years doing furniture restoration before going to South Africa in 1981 with her husband and small children.
Valerie left South Africa permanently in 2001 and has settled in the Netherlands, where she shares her time between a liveaboard barge in Rotterdam and a cottage in Zeeland. She teaches academic and business English on a freelance basis and still writes in her spare time, although she admits there’s not enough of that at the moment. In fact, she has been writing since childhood and wrote stories, articles and radio plays for years before embarking on her first book in 2005. Val loves travelling especially when it involves roughing it a bit. She feels that she has better adventures and more interesting experiences that way.
She has written six books altogether: the Skipper’s Child (teen/kidult fiction), How to Breed Sheep, Geese and English Eccentrics (sort of grown-up, humorous fiction), Watery Ways and Harbour Ways (memoirs of her first years of living on a barge in Holland), Walloon Ways (three years as a weekend Belgian) and African Ways (a memoir her life on a farm in South Africa). Her seventh book (another novel) is in progress but is taking rather longer than she had hoped. This is simply due to real life getting in the way.