Books for Big Brains: ‘The Secret Life of Cows’ reviewed by Heidi Harrison

Every so often we’re sent new books that are written by women. We’ve decided to take advantage of this by publishing short, succinct reviews that give you the lowdown on the quality content found within each book’s pages. These reviews form part of an ongoing series: Books for Big Brains.

How could it get any better, you ask? Well, we want to give YOU the books for FREE. If you’re Brisbane based and would like to be among the first to get your hands on the latest publications, all you have to do is provide us with your opinion on the book you’re sent in the form of a 200-300 word review. Sound like a sweet deal? Get in touch with us!

Heidi Harrison reviews The Secret Life of Cows by Rosamund Young

☆☆☆

The Secret Life of Cows, as its title suggests, is an account of the inner lives of cows as observed by Rosamund Young, who grew up working on her family’s farm. Originally published in 2003, this book was republished last year at a time when ethical farming practices were arguably more of a general public concern than ever before. However, this book is no call-to-arms for farming reform. Rather, it is a gentle—if at times comical—insight into the lifestyle of cows who live on Kite’s Nest (Young’s family’s farm), from their births, sleeping habits, and eating habits, to their socialisations.

What is striking about the book is the immense insight Young gives into the individuality of the cow’s personalities, from reluctant mothers to meddling grandmothers.

Not to mention Print, the cow who took a disliking to one of the workers hats and would remove it with her mouth every time she came into contact with him. The beauty of this book is a greater understanding of these creatures although, at times, particularly when relaying supposed conversations with the cows, it started to feel a bit more like a children’s book.

Although the cows undoubtedly live rich and colourful lives as described in Young’s book, it’s important to remember that these animals are not pets. Despite the immense detail in discussing other parts of their lives, Young conveniently omits discussion around when or how these lives come to an end, apart from a quick assertion in the introduction that the family is in charge of “every stage of production”. Although it may not bother other readers—my bias as a non-meat eater shows here—the lack of discussion around the entire process felt, to me, misleading to readers who forget that, in the end, the cows on Kite’s Nest are more than likely going to end up as somebody’s dinner.

 

Would you have bought this book for yourself?

Probably not. Although I enjoy non-fiction, this is not really like any other book I’ve read or heard about.

What kind of person would you buy this book as a gift for?

I think lots of people would enjoy this book. It’s quirky and fun, and would be good for an animal lover.

What sort of book would you give a 1 start rating?

One that frustrated me so much I wasn’t able to finish it, or was so bad that I regretted reading it.

What sort of book would you give a 5 star rating?

I think you know a book deserves a five star rating when you can’t stop thinking or talking about it. It changes you somehow; the way you look at things. It doesn’t have to be a flawless book, but you have to get really excited about it.

How many stars would you give this book?

Three out of five.

Buy The Secret Life of Cows from Allen & Unwin here for $19.99!


Review and Image by Heidi Harrison

Edited by Emma Kate Lewis

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