Thursday, 5 June 2014

Harvest by Jim Crace

Jim Crace was nominated for the Mann Booker Prize for this novel about a chain of sinister events occurring in an English village several hundred years ago. Its narrator, a farmer named Walter Thirsk, is a widower like his former boss, Master Kent, the local squire and landowner.

Since the death of Kent's wife in childbirth, the land is soon to pass to Master Jordan, his cousin by marriage. Jordan wants to turn a decent profit from the land and is keen to replace the cluster of small holdings with sheep. The villagers’ very existence is under threat and this forms a backbone of the story.

When Kent’s barn is set ablaze soon after harvesting, a culprit must be found, and this is an era for cruel punishments. Thirsk fears for the two young lads who were intoxicated following the harvest, but the arrival of strangers on the village’s outskirts turns people’s suspicions elsewhere. When tragedy follows, fear and superstition are not far behind and Master Jordan’s men also add a fair degree of menace.

I found myself turning the pages with a feeling of impending doom, yet unable to tear myself from Thirsk’s story. At the same time Crace provides a description of an idyllic way of life where people live close to the land and in tune with the seasons. Crace creates a brilliant narrative style for Thirsk that has an authentic ring without sounding quaint.

Harvest is a finely crafted novel that packs a lot of thought between its slim covers but is also such a joy to read it is very hard to put down.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue Link: Harvest

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