Forty years ago, Ronald Blythe caught a Suffolk village at a crucial moment in its history and immortalised it in a classic piece of acutely-recorded oral history. Now a young Canadian writer has returned to Akenfield – actually a fictional composite of two neighbouring East Anglian communities – to follow up the story and find the octogenarian Blythe, who is still leading a solitary secluded life nearby in a house with the single word ‘Mud’ written on a sign on his approaches. Blythe was always down-to-earth in every respect.
The new book is as compelling and seductive as its parent, and its format as simple – though, as in the earlier instance, deceptively so. A flat description of the interviewee is followed by a page or two of tape-recorded soliloquy. This latter reads like genuine stream of consciousness, but