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Book Club Podcast: Akenfield by Ronald Blythe

30 November 2023

© Church Times/Nick Spurling

Countryman Ronald Blythe, author of Akenfield

Countryman Ronald Blythe, author of Akenfield

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Akenfield by Ronald Blythe is the choice for this month’s Church Times Book Club. On the podcast this week, Malcolm Doney, who has written this month’s essay about the book, is in conversation with Sarah Meyrick.

The rural classic Akenfield was published in 1969. During the mid-1960s, Blythe interviewed 50 people in the two East Suffolk villages close to where he lived, and asked them about everyday life in the countryside. He gave the pair of villages the fictional name Akenfield. Capturing authentic voices, ranging from blacksmith to doctor, Akenfield is an extraordinary oral history of a way of life which now, in many ways, has disappeared. Issues covered in this portrait of village life include farming, education, welfare, class, war, and religion.

Ronald Blythe (1922-2023) was a writer, an essayist, and a Reader. In the Church Times obituary in January 2023 (Gazette, 20 January), he was described by Malcolm Doney as “a man of letters, a man of the Church, and a man of the countryside”. For the last 45 years of his life, he lived in Bottengoms Farm, on the Essex-Suffolk border — an Elizabethan yeoman’s house that he inherited from the artist John Nash. It was the beauty of the Stour Valley which inspired his writing, and it became the subject of his long-running weekly column in the Church Times, “Word from Wormingford”.

Akenfield by Ronald Blythe is published by Penguin Books at £9.99 (Church Times Bookshop £8.99); 978-0-14-118792-1.

The Revd Malcolm Doney is a writer, broadcaster, and Anglican priest, who lives in Suffolk. His book, co-written with Martin Wroe, Hold On, Let Go: How to find your life, is published by Wild Goose Publications.

The Church Times Book Club is run in association with the Festival of Faith and Literature

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