Would You Marry A Farmer?
Would You Marry A Farmer? is a truthful and affectionate take on the pros and cons of marrying into an all-consuming way of life and it seems to have touched a chord amongst families where they have farmers somewhere back in the family tree. It might seem to be a humorous gift-book: a light-hearted distraction with a grounding of good sense; but this book contains a much richer story than you might initially expect. A realistic and humourous look at the farming life.
I read some comments made by Lorna on other people’s blogs, so I looked up her blog, liked what I saw and bought the book!
I enjoyed this book very much. I am a blow-in to rural Ireland from the rural south-west of England. Although I am not, nor likely to be, married to an Irish farmer, my work here has brought me into almost daily contact with Irish farmers, Irish “farmerettes” and Irish mammies (the farming variety and the common-or-garden variety), and so the book resonated with me. I particularly liked and agreed with Lorna’s observation on country living: “Do not think that you can do anything that will not be noticed. If you normally leave the house at 8am and change that time one morning to 8.15, it will be noticed and commented on as the neighbours muse over what might have caused you to leave fifteen minutes later.”
The first part of the book (“Are Farmers a Good Catch?”) is written in a semi-scholarly (but highly readable) way and is a lovely overview of the history of the Irish farmer. I would have really liked this section to have been longer because it is so fascinating. It is sad how sons of farmers lived quite isolated lives and relied on their parents for everything, even the price of a pint. Some sons wouldn’t have wanted to take over the farm, but they had no choice, as they waved goodbye to their brothers and sisters on their way to good jobs in the towns or emigrating to a more prosperous life. This section really made me want to look more into the social history of farming. Lorna provides notes on her research, so there is a starting point for further reading.
The remaining sections are a more light-hearted look at today's farmer (which can be extended to a number of Irish country males in the non-farming form), and are informative and interesting. There is much humour and many tongue-in-cheek comments, but also a serious undertone on the lot of a farmer’s wife. Sexism is still a problem within the industry and succession is still a thorny subject – I was astounded to read that some older farmers even these days would prefer to sell or rent their farm rather than let a daughter take it over.
Being a farmer’s wife is not an easy life, but it does have many compensations, and Lorna writes about these with a passion (see also her blog) that makes you realise that life on a family farm certainly suits her. I was amused at how she and her husband, after a particularly testing time in the milking parlour that had the makings for divorce, now hug and say “I love you” before undertaking potentially fraught tasks such as cattle sorting, because they know it may be some time before they feel the urge to do so again!
There are some handy guides to terminology, including twenty words that describe rain – the author is based in Ireland, after all!
The black and white illustrations by Joanne Condon are perfect for the book (my favourite is “the mother-in-law”). One of her illustrations is on the cover, so you can get an idea of what they are like.
There are many subheadings, making it ideal for dipping into. I read it from cover to cover, which may not be the best way to enjoy this book. There is a bit of repetition, and the sections and subsections don’t always flow particularly well, which can be a bit jarring if you are reading it linearly. It gives the impression of individual articles being put together to make a book, not altogether seamlessly. I don’t think this is the case – it just has a feeling of it.
Although the book is written very much as a humorous look at the life of a farmer’s wife (with an acknowledgement that not all farmers are men, but in Ireland the vast majority are), I was a little put off at first at the premise that a woman might set her sights on a farmer as a husband and hatch a plan for finding herself one. That’s not what this book is about – it’s about what to expect if you do date a farmer and might become a farmer’s wife – but I would have felt a little more comfortable if some of the perspective was slightly different – more along the lines of “If you attend this sort of event you might meet a farmer” rather than “This is where you find your farmer”, which I do know is said tongue-in-cheek and I am likely being over-sensitive.
The book will be of interest to country lovers from outside of Ireland, although the text seems to lean towards an Irish readership. Both men and women, young and older, will enjoy it.
I’ve rambled enough, although I could carry on picking snippets out for you to read. But I suggest you buy it and read it for yourself – it’ll be worth it.
Editorial Input & Design
I felt the book could have done with a tighter edit – there was some repetition, some dodgy punctuation, and the various sub-sections didn't always flow easily from one to the next. There are several grammar and punctuation errors in the preface, which didn't bode well, but this doesn't follow through to the rest of the book. There are some errors, but nothing too jarring – it could have done with a copy-edit though.
I might have suggested changing some of the wording a little to get rid of the impression of seeking out a farmer as marriage material, rather than falling for a farmer and finding out what you are letting yourself in for. But maybe I am just being a bit prissy over that.
There are a couple of stylistic changes I might have suggested, but I think that is more getting into the realms of my reading tastes.
I would have suggested a glossary. Some terms are explained in the text, and some by the notes, but a glossary would be useful.
Cover: A bright and cheery design, giving ample clues to the humorous content. I would suggest re-writing the blurb to make it more enticing. Both the cover card and the inside paper is of good quality and the print quality is excellent.
Internal design: I first read this on a Kindle and got very frustrated at not being able to flick through to the endnotes (there are 71 of them – not everyone will want to read the notes, but I like to) ‒ a hyperlink to the note and one back again would have made the reading much easier and more satisfying. I would also have liked a contents list with hyperlinks.
The book is, though, more of a dipping-into book rather than a cover-to-cover read, and so although it is very clear on an e-reader (even the tables and pictures), I think this is one of those occasions when a paper copy is definitely the better option. The formatting of the paper copy is good, although the paragraph indents are quite big, maybe alerting the reader that this is a self-published book.
Book Clubs & Reviews
This makes a good book club choice. I can say that with some authority because the book club I go to has read it. We are a reading group in a small market town on the west coast of Ireland. We are all women, but come from a range of backgrounds. We have a dairy farmer, and another who was brought up on a farm; we have people from Canada, from London, from rural west of England, and people who currently live in the city, in towns, or in the countryside. Everyone enjoyed reading the book. Each of us at some point has been a spare body to stand in a gap (even the Londoner), so that resonated.
A few of us found the sections within chapters didn’t flow particularly neatly from one to the next, but one member didn’t think that – she had dipped into the book (although read all of it), and the rest of us had read it from beginning to end; hence my saying earlier that it is a dippy-in book.
The conversation went off in all sorts of tangents – always a good sign of how much we have enjoyed a book. We talked about farming matters (in rural Ireland no one can get away without having an opinion on farming matters), about how farmers often have to have a job outside of the farm to make ends meet, about women’s lives past and present, about bachelor farmers (we all knew at least one), about mother-in-laws, about women in India, about arranged marriages, about dowrys, about how in Ireland “land is everything” and how families fall out and how people even kill over it.
For refreshments we had farmhouse scones and tea brack with butter. We would have had a pot of tea … but book club.
Probably a rural reading group will get most out of this book, but an urban club would enjoy reading it too, for contrasts and finding out what really goes on in the countryside.
What others are saying: Amazon UK readers give it 4.9 stars (14 reviewers); Amazon US readers give it 5 stars (8 reviewers; Heather, married to a farmer herself, says “I would recommend this as an engagement present. I have got a copy ready to give to my future daughter-in-law if and when my son decides to pop the question!”); Goodreads readers give it 4.25 stars (4 ratings).
Buy & Author
Author’s website (paperback €12.95 for Ireland/€20 for UK; deals for 2 or 5 bulk orders; includes postage)
Kenny’s, Galway, Ireland (paperback €11.75; free worldwide postage)
O’Mahony’s, Ennis and Limerick, Ireland (paperback €12.95)
Amazon (Kindle £3.99/$5.94; paperback £9.95/$14.50)
Follow the author:
Website www.irishfarmerette.com (recommended for readers and writers – blog posts on farming, country matters, family life, writing, book reviews)
Links of interest
P. J. Connolly Interview with the author
Disclosure If you have read any of my round-ups for writers you will know that I often point you in the direction of Lorna's posts. That's because I like her blogs and follow them. I originally got to know Lorna as a Twitter friend after my book club had read her book and I contacted her to let her know what we thought of it, and we have kept in touch since.