Book Review: “The Cow Book”

"The Cow Book" by John Connell"The Cow Book" by John Connell

A book about One Man, His Father, and their Cows

A book I just put down. I just finished reading “The Cow Book“, tale of a farmers son who struggles between life as a writer and a farmer. The usual family troubles, the rows, the reconciliations are common to all families.

Published by Granta this year, is has hit a nerve in the reading public. It would make an excellent Christmas present.

Indeed, there is little difference: long before we were writers AND farmers, or workers, yet somehow a division came thst we had to be one or the other.

A quote I posted lately on Facebook comes to mind: “Poetry, like truth, is hated by most”. All the arts, prose, poetry, plays, is disapproved in a society that resents the academic. We must return to the thinking of the working academic, for thinking comes from education, shared experiences and handed on knowledge, songs and stories.

This is a lovely tome from John Connell of Soran , outside of Ballinalee, in rural North Longford. From the old tradition, a seanachie of sorts of the modern age, telling a tale of today for generations .

Its a quirkey read for those of a rural background, or for emigrants abroad.

Ballinalee in sleepy North Longford

A land of storytellers, a heritage that echoes through the centuries

Gaelic was lost a long time ago in Connells native North Longford. But the Irish storytelling tradition is held dear. Along with an unerring belief that if you work hard, you will succeed. Also a sober realisation that sometimes to just survive, is success sometimes.

Such was seen in the success so far of neighbouring Mullinaleaghta in the GAA club championship. The approach to life is the same. Flying home from Leeds for training, when others in other clubs wouldnt turn out on a wet night. The tears, the trials, the pain, perserverance. Then the success.

But prior to that the success was the survival.

Losing more often than not, often to my families club Colmcille of Aughnacliffe, they kept going. This spirit can be seen though the pages of Connells book.

Reading the book is like a chat in the pub with a freind. A confession of a life lived so to speak. It brings the opening months of the birth season in an Irish farm into something that even a town dweller can identify with.

Each page brings the hopes, the joys and frustrations of the author to life. He tries to reinvent himself as one of his own, like his forefathers. He had spend the decade prior proving himself one with the outside world. As a journalist. A producer. Now, with dirt under his fingernails, as a farmer.

Don’t just take our word for it…

Dont just take our word for it. We know you trust “The Eye”, as you should… but here is Rick O Shea speaking on the book…

Real issues for modern Ireland, urban and rural

The book touches on what Winston Churchill called “The Black Dogs”, what the author calls “The Past”, when he suffered a breakdown of sorts.

We work so hard. We try to be what others want us to be. Or to reject what others want us to be. It takes its toll. As Tommy Tiernan put it: “I cant cope without people, but Im no good with them either”!

We all have to look after ourselves well. Depression, when not looked after, can become an illness very quick. But there is a way back. You might even get a book out of it!

Is there really a book in everyone?

We all have heard the phrase “There is a book in everyone”, but its not simple to write such a book. To tell his tale, Connell traces the history of the cow through the centuries.

Yes, you read right. But its a lot more interesting than it sounds!

The amount of research that went into it, the discussion of philiosophy that comes with it shine through the page, which he outlines near the end of the book.

So, if you think there is one in you, get the outline down on paper. Tell the tale, it can be fleshed out after.

About the Author

Thomas Carty
Thomas Carty is a Renmore resident, having moved to Galway for work a couple of years ago. Both his parents were originally from Ballinalee in Co. Longford but he grew up in Banagher and maintains his Offaly connections with membership of the poetry group Tullamore Rhymers Club. An amateur genealogist and historian, he writes on a range of topics that grab his interest. He works at security to pay the bills, and travels widely around Europe to keep sane!