Akenfield

Text

It was strange coming back to the big house after the R.A.C. I was married now and we had an estate cottage without inside water, a bath or electricity, although it was very pretty and we were very happy. At first, that is. Until Ladyship said that my wife must work in the big house. My wife didn't understand what it would mean. She came from Ilford and had never seen anything like it. She got worried and then she got a migraine. The doctor told her that she must leave her work at the big house because it was making her anxious and ill. I told Ladyship, who said, 'But she must come.' I told her what the doctor had said but she just drove to the cottage and told my wife, 'You must come back to the kitchen - do you understand? You must.' So that is why we went away. I felt sorry for my wife and for Ladyship; they had no way of knowing each other.
The big house helped me in my life and changed me. Being in private service has educated me. I can talk to anybody. There is one thing about Suffolk folk and that is they find talk terribly difficult. I don't. I have learned to talk. But working for Lordship made me a foreigner in the villager. Those who remain with their own calibre in the village stay in the village family. I belonged to the big-house family and it was hard to leave. I saw the last of the big house while it was self-supporting. Everything, milk, cream, butter, game, fish, flowers, chicory, endive, melons, they were all there behind the hedges. Whatever Lordship and Ladyship wished for, they asked for, and it was brought.

Commentary

Ronald Blythe first published Akenfield in 1969. It was subtitled 'A Portrait of an English Village'. The village selected was a characteristic farming community in East Anglia with a population of 298, which was undergoing significant demographic change through the impact of changed agricultural technology at the time. Blythe used oral testimony taken from in-depth interviews with many of the inhabitants. The circumstances of domestic dwelling are frequently commented on. The book was adapted for film and television in 1975.

Private service.

Themes

Gender / Sexualities
Physical / Emotional States
Time
Human Relationships
Social Position

Dominant Representational Strategies

Idea

Dwelling

Type
Residential
Detail
House
Manor House
Historical Terminology
Specified Social Level
Poor
Elite

Activities

Type
Eating and Drinking
Detail
Cooking

Rooms

Type
Kitchen
Historical Terminology

Inhabitants

Type
People
Detail
Adults
Children
Male
Female

Objects

Type
Furniture
Detail
Seating

Bibliography

Direct Cross-References

Akenfield

Blythe, Ronald 1969

Book, JA2023

Akenfield

Blythe, Ronald 1969

Book, JA2025

Akenfield

Blythe, Ronald 1969

Book, JA2026

Akenfield

Blythe, Ronald 1969

Book, JA2027

Indirect Cross-References

Names
Blythe, Ronald
Date(s)
1969
Country
United Kingdom
Historical Region
Description
Format
Book
Type
Genre
Other Non-Fictional Prose
Publication
Blythe, Ronald, Akenfield, Penguin Books Ltd Harmondsworth, Middlesex, 1985, p.121.
Copyright
Copyright © Ronald Blythe, c/o Rogers, Coleridge & White Ltd, 20 Powis Mews, London W11 1JN
Location
Record ID
JA2024