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Once There Was a Farm

A Country Childhood Remembered
Virginia Bell Dabney

BUY Paper · 273 pp. · 5.5 × 8.5 · ISBN 9780813918471 · $22.50 · Oct 1998

Nearly fifty years after she left the family farm of her childhood, Virginia Bell Dabney was compelled to write a memoir. She and her two sisters were raised on a Virginia farm during the hardscrabble years of the 1920s and 1930s. Her determined, independent mother managed to make a life for her famiy, despite hardships such as the Depression and a fire that destroyed their home. Although raised in a spare environment where leaky ceilings and cold winter nights were the norm, Dabney finds much to love, and to rejoice over, in her country upbringing: the wonder of hens laying eggs, the sensations asscoiated with milking a cow, her warm friendship with her mother's black maid. The remarkable clarity of her half-century-old memories and her simple, unaffected tone bring this country childhood unforgettably to life.


A deeply affecting memoir of life on a backwoods Virginia farm in the first half of the 20th century, and an astonishing debut by a 71-year-old author... A wonderful book in which to lose oneself, and which restores nostalgia's tarnished name.

Kirkus Reviews

[This book] is an elegy; it moves with the natural dignity of longing and regret, without being afflicted by self-pity. Its nostalgia is no cheap trinket, but the residue of a profound experience of a way of life, not just a life style.

New York Times Book Review

What do you call a book like this, filled with dozens of passages in which the creatures of the barnyard are in a single shimmering detail, a paragraph or even a chapter brought to life... and in a way that causes readers not just to ponder the immemorial condition of hens or cows or cats, but to move on to a consideration of human fate as we?.

San Francisco Examiner

About the Author(s): 

Virginia Bell Dabney [1919-1997] lived on a farm in the Allegheny Mountains of Virginia.

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