A balanced look at the town vs. country divide

Divide by Anna Jones is a memoir (but so much more!) exploring the many differences between town and country. Each chapter covers a theme – including politics, diversity, food and environment. Anna’s pedigree as a journalist and interviewer shines through. Whilst Anna has lived in both town and country, this book is told much more from the rural point of view. Having grown up on a farm and having visited many farms for her work, she can pick out the stories that bring each chapter to life.

Like Anna, I grew up in the countryside but then moved to urban areas, first to Reading while I was at University and then to London. Eventually, my family and the business we now run together pulled me homeward. I found comfort in being surrounded by a more rural landscape. My husband was a true city boy, with experience of living in Birmingham and London. When we moved to North Essex, I saw the countryside through his eyes but also through the lens of a town dweller. How we drive anywhere to go for a walk, compared to living in London where we walked everywhere from the front door. How I can’t go to the supermarket without bumping into someone I know, and how every tradesperson we use has some connection to my family or our local business. Initially it drove him crazy, but he is used to it after twelve years and no longer wishes he was back in the city. I found so many parallels between Anna’s journey and my own.

I admired how Anna didn’t attempt to polarise the argument and that in each chapter Anna shares a variety of viewpoints. She is very balanced.

These paragraphs particularly struck a chord with me, “The biggest lesson I learnt is the divide only exists when you see parties and belief systems and groups. When you break it down to individuals and people, it melts away, making you wonder if it exists at all…
…Town and country people live and think differently – and that’s OK, so long as we understand why. And we can only do that by asking each other and finding out.”

Whilst the book will appeal mostly to those who have grown up in rural areas, and, like Anna and I, also experienced city life it is a book for all. It should be read by policy-makers and anyone interested in the farmers who grow their food.

Hannah is the author of The Cactus Surgeon, a nature & health memoir. Living in London, Hannah suffered burnout and was diagnosed with a functional neurological disorder. With no information available to help her, she found her own way to get better.

Growing up in a garden centre, her childhood was full of nature and plants. This was in stark contrast to the concrete of the capital, where she became unwell. In searching for the answers to her illness, she wonders whether being torn from her pot and replanted in a more hostile environment was the reason her body started to malfunction. After seeking out alternative therapies, and moving to the countryside of North Essex, her ‘green recovery’ continued. It’s a book of mindful moments, savouring the small wonders of nature.

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