Frances Wilson reviews Big Pig, Little Pig by Jacqueline Yallop

Twelve years ago, Jacqueline Yallop and her husband, Ed, both writers, moved from Sheffield to a farmhouse in Mas de Maury in the department of Aveyron, south-west France. Their new location is described as a place of “isolation”, “incremental loss”, and “unromantic hardship”. Their neighbours are paysans: people of the land. After much discussion the couple decide to purchase two pigs and raise them for meat. It is a sensible, unemotional decision: there was a time when every smallholding had a pig, and pigs will connect the English newcomers to the traditions of their community. Killing a pig, they realise, is “an act of belonging”. It is also an investment: Jacqueline and Ed will feed the pigs for 12 months, after which the pigs will feed Jacqueline and Ed.

The sharks that have been swimming since the Renaissance

Enter Big Pig and Little Pig (not being pets, their names simply tell them apart), 12-week-old weaners from an ancient breed called gascon noir. They are charming and intelligent with fluffy fringes, knobbly knees and bristly black manes. Big Pig seems wise, dependable and introverted, while Little Pig (who is only marginally smaller) is skittish, a tad selfish perhaps, and an extrovert.