Book review: This Country Business by Max Hardcastle

Wit, grit and plenty of slapstick ... true Yorkshireman Max Hardcastle is back with the third instalment of his madcap memoir of life in the Dales.

Thousands of readers already feel at home with antiques dealer Hardcastle, his wife Vicky and their two children, Sally and Peter, so turning the pages of his new book is like meeting up with old friends.

Hardcastle has a keen eye for those quirky traits that make Yorkshire folk a breed apart... pig-headedness, pride, loyalty, eccentricity and an entertaining brand of wry humour, to name but a few.

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When the author and his family moved out of a cramped city centre antiques shop and its overflowing upstairs flat and relocated to a smallholding in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales, nothing prepared them for the varied and endlessly entertaining nature of village life.

But, of course, it’s not all plain sailing in the remote settlement of Ramsthwaite. How could it be otherwise with a village full of oddball characters like Long John, Fiery Frank, Rabbit Joe, Canary Mary, Fatty Batty and Chucky Cockerill?

In This Country Business, we find the Hardcastles settled into their tumbledown old farm where a much-loved smallholding is enabling them to eat meals made up entirely of their own produce and do some thrifty bartering with friends.

They also have a collection of animals to care for, not least an obstinate old goat called Elspeth who likes nothing better than leading them all a merry dance.

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There is also the not unimportant matter of plotting to get the better of rival antiques dealers, restoring the burnished nether regions of a Greek statue and witnessing the everyday dramas of their colourful neighbours.

Meanwhile, lonely, middle-aged Canary Mary finds an unexpected romance, Long John, who has fallen into his own pine-stripping tank 17 times in the last three years, gets a scorching surprise and local poacher Rabbit Joe devises a wily scheme to make a few bob on the races.

And somehow Max ends up right in the middle of every incident...

Perceptive, funny and overflowing with charm and warmth, Hardcastle’s Yorkshire tales and his cast of lovable rogues are the perfect comedy act!

(Sphere, paperback, £7.99)

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