Amy & Lan by Sadie Jones review – larks and losses on a rural commune

A fabulously funny and heart-rendingly sad tale of childhood in the ‘dysfunctional utopia’ of a rackety smallholding

Amy Connell and Lachlan Honey are childhood soulmates on a Herefordshire smallholding, closer even than siblings, born just a few days apart. They celebrate their birthdays every summer solstice with a ramshackle picnic on a nearby hill, surrounded by sweaty adults and grubby children. The grownups bring cake and red wine and homemade elderflower champagne. They also drag up a greased wheelie bin full of rats, which have been caught on the farm and need to be released in the wild. The rats squeak and scratch. They make the wheelie bin shake. “I bet they’re eating each other,” sniffs one of the kids. “Or having sex.”

Throw too many creatures together, one fears, and sooner or later they’ll devour each other or start having sex. It’s a harsh law of nature, as immutable as the seasons and as applicable to hippies on the Welsh borders as it is to rodents in a bin. Amy and Lan love living on Frith Farm, scything and baling and naming all the goats. But the idyll can’t last, the weather turns chilly – and that squeaking and scratching grows more persistent by the month.

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