Friday, April 19, 2013

Harvest by Jim Crace

Harvest is an atmospheric novel set in a remote English village during the time of the land clearances. The crofters count back generations on the land, exchanging with the landowner their labour for their share of the harvest. Author Jim Crace employs the distinctive gentle voice of Walter Thirsk, a relative newcomer to the area, who arrived only about a dozen years earlier and then married Cecily, a local woman.

"I wooed her by working at her elbow in her fields, attending to the hunger of her soil. My labour was an act of love. My unaccustomed muscles grew and ached for her. I put my shoulder to the plow for her. I became as tough as ash for her. I had no choice. The countryside is argumentative. It wants to pick a fight with you."

Violence comes from people, not from the land. Strangers arrive and everything is turned upside down over a span of just a few days.

The vivid setting, poetic prose and memorable characters make Harvest a remarkable gateway into another time and place. It is a way of life that is about to be altered irrevocably.

Readalikes: Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks and Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (although Harvest is less than a third the length of Wolf Hall).

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