Cover Image: Earthed

Earthed

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Member Reviews

One thing you must understand about this book is that it's not just about a woman, her husband, and two children moving to a smallholding and attempting to make a difference by raising their own food (vegetables, goat's milk, and eggs). Schiller and her husband did agree to do this because it had been a dream of theirs, but the story became much more: for years Schiller had felt there was something wrong with her, that she wasn't good enough, that she was inordinately clumsy and said the wrong thing at the wrong time, that she fell into some projects with enthusiasm and others she was incapable of following through. And although raising crops, enjoying the flowers and trees with her children, and caring for her animals did "ground" her somewhat, she still found her emotions erratic—one morning she beats a pitcher against her head and destroys some china cups. Diagnosed initially with anxiety, she did as the doctor asked and found herself still at sea, with physicians not believing she wasn't being helped by the treatments. If this wasn't bad enough, just as she thought a correct diagnosis of her condition had been found, COVID-19 reared its ugly head.
 
Schiller writes beautifully, whether talking about the landscape, her children, the discoveries she makes about those who lived on the land previously, and even about her emotional difficulties, which make it easy to understand her confusion, pain, and sense of isolation. She also cares deeply, not only about her family and her farm, but about injustice, the past, and the future, and bares her soul. Reading this is an emotional experience in every sense. If you are looking for a simple "how I moved to a small farm and how it changed my life" narrative, I would look elsewhere.
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I did not read the synopsis of this bool before reading it.  The title and cover appealed to me as a gardener.  It is so much more than a “we moved to the country and made a garden” book.  The descriptions mental illness and certain feelings were put into words within this book….words that I have been searching for for years.  This was a brutally relatable and at the same time, completely enjoyable read.  I loved it. Full stop.
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This book had been on my radar, so when I saw it was available on Netgalley I jumped at the chance. I'm interested in reading about women who are facing mental health issues, and I want more nature in my reading, and this seemed to be bringing those two elements together.

This is Schiller's memoir of moving to a small holding in Kent, leaving their life in London.  It turns out to be a much larger undertaking than her and her family anticipated.  Rebecca ends up taking on a lot of the work herself, burning herself out and into a frenzy of anxiety and stress. Either because of that or simply by coincidence, Schiller experiences a disintegration in her mental health.  Paradoxically, order to cope and heal, she uses that contact with the earth, and turns to the history of the house and land through the women who came before her.

I'm not sure if you can have spoilers for memoirs, but I wont say what diagnosis Schiller ends up pursuing.  What I will say is that I found this section fascinating, as it is the first time I've read of a woman exploring this condition. It spoke to me very acutely.  It is an emerging area, particular for women and girls, and from a personal perspective is something I found very interesting.  She is introspective and also incredibly deft at putting into words the way her mind works, how she views herself and how her thought processes develop. 

I really enjoyed this book.  Schiller has reference points which are possibly more cultured than mine, and so I didn't always connect with what she was saying, but I thought her writing style was really rich.  At times, particularly when discussing the women (actual or as she imagines them to be) who inhabited the land before her, it's almost lyrical.  I liked that she could have that element, but then also a much more real voice when talking about her everyday life.  She can be quite direct and honest, particularly when it came to her relationship with her husband.  I'm not sure how he'd feel about how he is portrayed in this book, but I do think he should count himself lucky she didn't apply more reflection than she did...

This book is definitely mental health first, nature second.  But the nature that she does write about is both informative and incredibly beautiful.  Schiller has a very elegant writing style, but elegant in a way that opens her up to the reader rather than keeping them at arm's length.  I would love a further memoir from her to see where she goes from here, both in terms of her mental health and the future of her smallholding.
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So much to take away from this beautiful book; it’s just so relatable, raw and real. It’s not your typical “I moved to the country and nature healed me” story, but instead is an honest depiction of mental health. Miller reflects on the highs and lows of life in the country, and life in general, and shows how being tethered to the earth helps to ground you in more ways than you’d expect. Highly recommend!
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Thank you NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review Earthed.

This book is so beautifully written and I would highly recommend it. Rebecca doesn't hold back, it is emotive, it is raw, it is happy and ever so sad.
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while i found this to be a bit confusing to follow it is a very detailed look at someone with an undiscovered condition and how the mind works .It will certainly give one food for thought .
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I appreciated this book for its mental health aspect as well as its gardening/farming aspect. There was a lot I didn't know about farming in rural England and I learned a lot of different terms and history that I was unfamiliar with. I could see myself in many of the paragraphs. It was also interesting to get a glimpse of a book that mentions the early days of Covid, though I did think that the book could have been tied up more succinctly around that time period. I would love to read more from the author with the focus strictly on mental health.
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I did not realise before starting the book that mental health would be such a big part of it, but I think that made it more interesting and enjoyable. The author, Rebecca Schiller, had moved with her husband and two children to the countryside and is making big plans of planting vegetables and flowers, keeping hens, and living more sustainably - essentially my dream life - but is crippled by anxiety and something else which she is desperate to get a diagnosis for. The memoir is sometimes poorly structured - in theory it is organised by season, but there are many digressions about farming communities, women farmers from past centuries, and at times it can be hard to follow. After finishing the book I wondered if this jumping around with different ideas was maybe a deliberate illustration of the mental health diagnosis she receives at the end of the memoir. Regardless, some of these passages where she imagines the thoughts and lives of women whose names she found in local history books and archives felt unnecessary; but overall this is a well-written book, with interesting comments on privilege, mental health, meaning and nature.
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'Earthed' was not what I was expecting, but I really enjoyed the experience. I expected a bit of escapism about moving to the country and what a hard but wonderful experience it has been etc. (you know the drill!) but the author does not romanticise smallholding life, and living that life with a family, at all. I found a real strength in her being able to show vulnerability; hardships and difficult experiences are not glossed over, which can often be the case in 'I moved to the country' books. But I especially loved that the author described her medical and relationship problems, and so honestly. It is important to say when, for example, the medical profession does not help women (the author had to work out herself what was 'wrong' for want of a better word, and ADHD is under-diagnosed in women). These things should be shared. 
I was confused by the ending. It sounded like a year of Covid restrictions had resolved the relationship issues (I'm glad that the author's husband's apparent neglect is also not glossed over) but I wonder if maybe this book could have waited a year, or two years, so that the ending didn't feel quite so abrupt? It maybe we will see a sequel?
I also have to highlight that Saddleworth Moor is not in North Yorkshire (it's between Oldham and Kirklees).
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I felt this book was more about the authors state of mind than nature and her decision to move to a smallholding. I would have loved to read more about that. Not my type of book unfortunately.
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Timely, beautifully written, and thoroughly relatable. I adore nature writing and memoir that are mixed together in this way, and I found the inclusion of our pandemic realities to be so cathartic to read about. Highly recommend.
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Thank you to Netgalley for gifting me this ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

I want to give this a 3.5 stars; it's certainly more than a 3 for me. 

I was drawn to the idea of a memoir that explored connection to the land and our wellbeing. Schiller moved her family to a smallholding in Kent, drawn to a dream of how they could live. This memoir details her journey of trying to adapt this new way of life, learn the land all whilst her mind begins to unravel. 

I found her story to be really moving, incredibly vulnerable and raw. It felt like a privilege to be reading about her journey when it is so very recent. In her retelling of her life these past few years, she weaves her historical learning, folklore and vivid imaginings of the past with poetry. Most of the time I found this beautiful, but there were times I found the imagined stories too long and I was keen to read what she learnt or discovered, or just move onto the next chapter of her story.
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Earthed is a stunning memoir of a woman, her mind and her smallholding to which she and her family moved to find a simpler way of life. The book weaves historical stories of the women who lived before Rebecca on the plot, with day to day family life, the unravelling of Rebecca's mind and her struggle to tend to the animals and land that comprise the smallholding. 

I loved all of the book, but was especially moved by the passages in which Rebecca describes how nature, and in particular the sowing of seeds, soothes her when she's feeling untethered. She so  beautifully distills how I feel about seeds and trying to calm my mind. It's as if she's writing from the inside of my head!

The writing is raw and violent in parts, and in others it's beautifully lyrical - especially when recounting the historical lives of women who have gone before her. There are stunningly moving passages describing the torment of knowing that something is wrong and the the searching and yearning to find a resolution. 

Rebecca's commitment and attachment to the land and the earth shines through. Amongst all the struggles and worries, it's the ancient oak tree that sustains her and gives her comfort, alongside her deep love for her family.  I love the references to the flowers that she grows and tends. But above all, I love the the understanding that Rebecca comes to about herself and about the necessity of having the earth underneath her fingernails.
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A very brave but sometimes confusing book. The author sheds light on her struggles with mental illness and we feel her relief when she is finally correctly diagnosed. I got lost occasionally when she wrote AS other people rather than ABOUT them.
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I would recommend this book to anyone interested in memoirs, mental health, and the outdoors.

Rebecca Schiller bought a smallholding with her husband in 2017. This novel is a raw insight into her mental health and her struggles to cope with her ever-increasing list of projects around their land. I found her struggles gripping and her crisis eloquently explained.
One of my favourite aspects of the books is the imagined snippets of the women who lived on the land throughout history.
Rebecca also expresses the beauty of the outdoors; with details of their flowers, goats and chickens, and growing vegetables. There are also some beautiful poems throughout the book that I enjoyed.
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Earthed wasn’t the book that I was expecting, but it was all the more powerful for that. I think that I was expecting more of a story of a family moving to a country smallholding than I was this deeply personal mental health journey, despite this appearing in the blurb. In the end, though I missed the detailed struggles of a lifestyle change that has appealed to me for some time, I was deeply moved by the honesty of the author’s personal struggle to earth herself.

There is a tendency toward dishonesty in our culture when it comes to the way we present ourselves to the outside world, maybe even the way we live our inner lives as well. There is so much apparent perfection out there that we find it hard to reconcile our own messiness and don’t want to lower our guard, letting it leak out. Rebecca Schiller has laid herself bare to the reader of Earthed with the courage of an elder who has knowledge and experience to impart.

Truthful storytelling, which can occur across many genres, is my favourite writing. When an author is willing to open up their honest inner life we all benefit from an insight that is not normally available to us. We can reflect on our own inner life to better understand ourselves, but our understanding of the world around us is obtained by observing the outer presentation of the people and things we come into contact with. So, if those representations are false our understanding is flawed.

Rebecca Schiller is at times painfully honest as she reveals her inner reflections and works through the dismantling and rebuilding of who she is and where she fits. Along the way she uses historic threads of research and imagination to connect herself to a larger whole that helps her make sense of a small life in a vast universe. She lays bare her relationship with her husband, children and wider family opening up the wounds inflicted by the gap between intention and action, exposing the power of communication.

In a culture of competition, we fear that vulnerability will be exploited, but it is when we overcome that fear to reveal our true selves that we are finally able to soar. It is in this context that we should embrace and celebrate those who allow themselves to be seen and in doing so better understand and reveal ourselves. Earthed is a book about moving to a rural smallholding and a book about a traumatic mental health journey, but it is also a tool that we can all use to reflect, connect and gradually bloom.
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I do not know when or why, but one day I started following Rebecca Schiller on Instagram. I have always been drawn to people who garden, who move to the countryside for that smallholding experience, because at times I have toyed with that idea myself. I have mentioned before that I am incredibly curious about people’s lives.



Of course, I know that Instagram is a highlight reel for many of us, but something about her account always felt to me always more like “kindred” rather than just a random person to follow. So when I saw she had a book coming out, I requested it on Netgalley as soon as I saw it.


Now, I expected a story of her moving to the country, finding it a bit hard and how they overcame it together as a family. And yes this book is about that in a way, but it is also not that at all, because Rebecca has a story (or a multitude of stories) to tell about her move, what she feels is a mental health problem, you could say her unravelling, the stories she found in the land she inhabits and beyond, and the slow unveiling of a diagnosis and hopeful embarking on a way forward. (These are not spoilers.)


I grew up in the countryside and my grandmother had a huge allotment, I often joke I grew up somewhere between cabbages and runner beans as most of our life was spent on that allotment. So I have no illusion about the hard work it is to grow your own food and then like Rebecca must balance it with a career, a family, livestock and that nagging feeling of “What the hell is wrong with me? Why am I like this?”.


Writing about this book is a bit of a challenge if I am honest. Not because I did not love the book, heck, I love it a lot. So much. It is hard because I am trying hard to not make this about me, about how I felt while reading the book, what it made me think and contemplate. Staying with Rebecca’s story is so hard because a lot of it felt like mine. I read on Twitter this morning: “A story is not a mirror but a door.” And Earthed felt to me like a door. But talking about the door is for another day. Another time.


An aspect I loved is that Rebecca shared in so much detail how her brain works. How she will focus on something so much it becomes its own story; the brain leads to ever more detail about people and stories and it can be overwhelming but also incredibly calming. I just got her. Got all the stories. Got what she is saying.

I also loved that idea she contemplates a lot: that a smallholding is more than just a place where you grow food and keep a bit of livestock. It is land and that land has always been there, people have lived on it, passed through it, vegetation was there and then was changed, mostly by humans. A house is also a place where – especially in the UK – people have lived before us and that curiosity as to who they are and what they have been like is something I never knew other people thought about as well. In as much detail as I do.

Nature is naturally the biggest theme in this book, it is called Earthed after all. The earth, the garden, the land kept Rebecca tethered when she felt the ground was slipping underneath here and this not just in the proverbial sense. Growing flowers and food. Stepping outside to hug an oak when life inside gets too much. Marvelling at the flowers. Noticing. Observing. But never being quite still, just enought to keep going. I don’t think I have ever read a more beautiful metaphor for life. 

The structure of the book may feel experimental to some as we switch between memoir and narrative elements, yet, I don’t think this book could be any other way, since it would otherwise fail to convey the reality in which the author found herself in. 


I am going to grow some dahlias this year and when I look at them, I will think of this book and the door and be grateful it had been a book I did not know I needed to read, finding its way to me through just following someone on Instagram at some point.
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A n intimate look at the life emotions mental health of the author.When she and her family move out of the city to a home plot of land to grow their own food raise chicks a peaceful life.All should be well but the author is having serious mental health problems getting more stressed acting out,I give her husband credit for being able to cope with her acting out.Finally there is an answer she discovers for her issues but it takes quite awhile,A book that is not about living farm to table but living through a year of emotional storm.I found it very interesting very involving & glad the author for her&=her family sake is healing.#netgalley #earthed
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This book was not at all what I was expecting -- a book about homesteading and finding yourself in the country life -- but was instead almost entirely about the author's mental health.  I understand that's a pressing issue and one that will be a draw for many people, but the people who will pick up this book based on its description are not those people.  There is a lot of value in this book, but it definitely needs a total makeover on the book description...
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I think that the publishers should make it more obvious in the blurb that this book focuses almost totally on the author's mental health - I expected a lot more about the actual work of running a Kentish smallholding, so as an avid reader of nature-writing, 'Earthed' wasn't as satisfying a read as I'd hoped it would be. At times it's even exhausting, an endless snowfall of paragraphs about the author's internal crisis - though it is elegantly written, and I'm sure readers with more of an interest in this kind of topic will find much to love about the book (I was reminded quite strikingly of Clover Stroud's writing, and I note that she has provided a quote for the book).

'Earthed' is quite experimental in some ways; a memoir of a breakdown interspersed with fragments on gardening and crop-growing, imaginings of women from the past, and poetry. I wasn't taken with the fictional account of the nameless civil servant, though the historical fiction had more appeal, and I'd love to see Schiller take this further with a historical novel on women in agriculture (following in the footsteps of authors like Melissa Harrison).  

So - a book of a sharp edges and tender moments, not quite what I was expecting or looking for as it turns out, but no doubt one that will resonate with many readers (particularly, I imagine, women struggling to run families and manage their own mental health).

(With thanks to NetGalley and Elliott & Thompson for this ebook in exchange for an honest review)
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