Merlin Unwin Books

"Merlin Unwin Books are lively, innovative countryside book publishers.

Their well-produced range of rural, wildlife, fieldsports and fishing books never fail to inform and entertain."

Philip Dunne MP
co-founder of Ottakar’s bookshops

My Animals (and Other Family)

A rural childhood 1937-1956

Falling truly, madly, deeply in love with one animal after another was a recurrent theme of the author’s childhood, actively encouraged by her beautiful, impetuous mother as she single-handedly held the family together during the war’s darkest days.

While her husband’s regiment battled through the Tunisian desert to Italy and Austria, she criss-crossed beleaguered Britain with children, ration books, and an unwieldy train of rabbits, dogs, cats and ponies, dreaming of land of her own.

But farming can’t be learned overnight, and translated into the reality of 400 acres of hilly, rain-lashed Radnorshire, that dream became a challenge for all ranks. Dragooned into acting as unskilled, unpaid labour for jobs that would make today’s Health-and-Safety freaks blench – burning rushes, driving tractors, riding on Land-Rover bonnets and towering haywains – the children came to look on boarding-school as a rest-cure, though they retain from those days of carefree, unregulated farm life a treasure-house of memories.    

This elegant memoir, told with disarming honesty and gentle humour, follows the development of a lively, headstrong, self-effacing young girl into womanhood.

Author: Phyllida Barstow
ISBN: 978 1 906122 13 3
Published: September 2009
Format: 234 x 156 mm
Binding: Hardback
No. of pages: 224
2 x 8 page plate sections
Price: £16.99

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My Animals (and Other Family) by Phyllida Barstow

Press reviews

Reviewed in Brecon and Radnor Express in September 2009

'A rite of passage memoir as well as an account of childhood in a vanished world.'

Reviewed in Country Smallholding Magazine in December 2009

'The personalities are vibrant and the life arduous. Phyllida Barstow gives a disarmingly frank account.'

Reviewed in The Countryman in December 2009

'A frank and well-written account of an eccentric rural upbringing, which contrasted with her time abroad and in London.'

Reviewed in BBC Countryfile in December 2009

'Her autobiography is psychobabble-free and upbeat. Phyllida and siblings enjoyed a freedom that contrasts so sharply with the lives of today's over-protected children.'

Reviewed in Country and Border Life in January 2010

'A wonderful childhood memoir... Phyllida is a sensitive observer, who writes with great clarity and elegance.'

Reviewed in Evergreen Magazine in March 2010

'They were grim days, spanning from the mid 1940s to the late 1950s, marked by the hardships of war, rationing, eccentric schooling and a need for toughness and stoicism in the constant battle to keep the farm going. It would have killed off many children today but Phyllida grew into an assured, well-balanced woman blessed with a great gift for writing.'

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