Testament to a bygone era of extreme deprivation in the Yorkshire dales of famous veterinarian James Herriot. Hannah reveals the joys and trials of a single woman farming completely alone through terrible winters, befriending her livestock and barely scraping by without running water or electricity. Yorkshire TV interviewed her in 1972 for a segment on local characters and she became an overnight sensation. Hannah defends the dales, which brought father then mother to early graves from overwork, but it's challenging, to say the least, to admire a community that allowed a young girl to be excluded from local dances. The English are such a mean people at times.
Hannah describes soldiering on without complaint and indeed with a quiet dignity one rarely sees in contemporary life.
Happily, once people worldwide discovered Hannah, friends as well as modern conveniences were at long last provided, but she became so weary of visitors that after selling up and moving to a nearby cottage she purchased a small piece of farm property, where she could reconnect with her beloved cow, Rosa, in privacy and obscurity.
It's easy in the city to forget how long many in remote communities lived without modern conveniences. My own spouse rode a horse to a one-room schoolhouse in rural Manitoba, and the farm had no running water until the family were grown up and gone in the mid-1970s.
Deprivation does NOT build character, either, and anyone who says otherwise hasn't experienced it. Too little for too long is injurious in so many ways that may not be obvious for many years. So this is not a book that romanticizes 'the good, old days.' Most of her life alone on the farm was sheer hell, it sounds like, which makes the book an unexpected pleasure. Very well written it is, too, especially for someone with so few resources and so little education but who read nonetheless and learned to play the organ with a certain competence.
A charming read by all accounts. Highly recommended. The documentaries on Hannah, are available at YouTube.com.
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