'The Cow Book: A Story of Life on a Family Farm' is captivating memoir about the reality of working on a Irish beef farm, and the ups and downs that come with it.
Farming has been in John Connell's family for generations, but he never intended to follow in his father's footsteps. Until, one winter, he finds himself back on the farm and begins to learn the ways of the farmer and the way of the cows. Connell records the hypnotic rhythm of the farming day - cleaning the outhouses, milking the herd, tending to sickly lambs, helping the cows give birth. But alongside the routine events, there are the unforeseen moments when things go wrong: when a calf fails to thrive, when a sheep goes missing, when illness breaks out, when depression takes hold, when an argument erupts and things are said that cannot be unsaid.
The Cow Book is the story of a calving season. It is also the story of the cow itself, from its domestication and worship as a God by the Ancient Egyptians to the modern practice of mechanized herds, via the figure of the cowboy, the destruction of the American buffalo, the demise of the aboriginal jackaroos and the consequences of BSE.
And, above all, it is the story of Connell's life as a farmer, of his relationship with his birthplace of County Longford, with the community around the family farm, with the animals he tends, and with his father.
Rick O'Shea discusses why 'The Cow Book' is one of his 'Must Reads'.
The brilliant The Cow Book is the true story of John Connell - a young man unexpectedly back on the family farm for a year having left for Australia and Canada to make a life for himself as a writer and filmmaker. It’s a truthful, beautiful description of how hard everyday life on a 21st century small Irish beef farm can be, mercifully free of clichés, and incredibly moving at times.
I was a kid brought up surrounded by vast housing estates in Dublin who only ever saw a cow on the way to Wexford for my Summer holidays. I didn’t let that put me off and neither should you – The Cow Book opens windows to stories that we all should see and that, as consumers, we’re all a part of in the end.
Watch John Connell read an extract from his critically acclaimed memoir 'The Cow Book' - exclusively for Eason.
John Connell is a journalist, a film maker, writer and a farmer. He lives on his family farm Birchview, in County Longford. He published a short story in Granta 135 New Irish Writing in 2016. ‘The Cow Book’ is his first book.
Buy his book today online or in-store.