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Harvest Paperback – 13 Feb 2014

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (13 Feb. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330445677
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330445672
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (208 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,537 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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'Unfolding in Crace's trademark rhythmic prose and brimming with unsentimental but intense feeling for the natural landscape, this lingering novel is as resonant as it is elusive.' Daily Mail

‘Jim Crace is the most generous of writers. A fabulist, an open heart, an imagination in full flight. There is something of a harvest in every book: the promise, the violence, the fall, the regain. And Harvest is one of his best novels ever. He is, quite simply, one of the great writers of our time.’ Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin

‘Harvest, his latest novel, dramatises one of the great under-told narratives of English history . . . Crace brings his signature combination of atmosphere and exactitude to every aspect of this far-off world . . . the prose is extraordinary: rich yet measured, estranged and familiar, both intimate and austere . . . Harvest can be read in mythical, even biblical terms, but the physical and emotional displacement of individuals and communities at its heart remains as politically resonant today as it was at the time.’ Guardian

‘Crace’s prose - percussive, rhythmic, resonant - is unmistakable.’ Independent on Sunday

‘The rhythmic power of his prose, with its vivid physical imagery, brings his stories to life . . . Crace is brilliant at evoking atmosphere, mood and an all-persuasive sense of place . . . Harvest has been announced by Crace as his final novel. If so . . . it is majestic leavetaking, honed by an unforgettable narrative voice: resigned, bewildered, ultimately hopeful . . . Few novels as fine or as complex in their apparent simplicity will be published this, or indeed any, year.’ Irish Times

Harvest is Jim Crace's most ambitious novel since Being Dead (1999) . . . Crace's stunning depiction of country life in all its hardship - less Tolstoy, more Hardy, but bleak-pastoral rather than idyllic-bucolic . . . Harvest is a mesmerising slow-burner of a novel, both a paean to a lost way of life and a timeless cautionary fable. . . . We gladly accompany Thirsk on his eventful seven-day journey of discovery, always aware of that one portentous word which slyly reappears as a leitmotif, signifying a better future beyond the village boundary, a word in which Jim Crace cleverly compounds his perennial twin concerns of place and time: hereafter.’ Literary Review

'The best of his that I've read . . . Full of the most wonderful descriptions . . . Very readable and very scary . . . A tour de force' Gillian Slovo, Saturday Review on BBC Radio 4

‘Crace evoked this musty, murky world, and the ambiguous persona of our protagonist within it, with wit and immediacy that bring it touchably close . . . The story that he constructs is involving and mysterious, stoked by vividly descriptive prose that’s never wastefully or showily verbose.’ Scotland on Sunday

‘This very beautifully written novel gives pause for thought and unearths a quintessential England, never stereotyped, which is also deeply and humanly unique. And, until he writes an even better one, this, for me, is Crace’s most satisfying, and probably, best book.’ Scotsman

‘Terrible, lyrical, beauty that is nothing like any other novel I have ever read . . . Crace achieves a cadence of speech which sounds and feels as if it is absolutely authentic.’ Spectator

‘Harvest is as finely written as it is tautly structured. Pungently flavoured with archaic words (“reasty”, “turbary”, “yellow manchet bread”), its language is exhilaratingly exact, sometimes poetic and sometimes stark (slashed across the mouth with a pruning blade, someone is left “hardly moving, but…certainly alive. A dead man never made such noise”). Magnificently resurrecting a pivotal moment in our history about which it is deeply knowledgeable, this simultaneously elegiac and unillusioned novel is an achievement worthy to stand alongside those of Crace’s great fictional influence, William Golding.’ Sunday Times

‘Jim Crace’s setting is closely imagined in a detailed, credible, tactile way that makes it seem real — while, of course, it is entirely imaginary. . . Crace’s entertaining story of ordinary farming folk, somewhere, somewhen, ploughs a deep furrow.’ The Times

'Inimitably excellent, Jim Crace stands on his own ground among living English novelists . . . Crace is surely the nearest talent to William Golding that our literature can boast today. . . As for Crace's language, it would be otiose with this writer to note its blazing clarity of vision, its passionate microscopic observation and the untiring swing and spring of its rhythm. . . Crace's incandescent visit to a near-mythical Deep England results in a story both topical, and global. No recent English novel has deeper roots, yet casts so broad a shade.' Independent

‘Beautifully written, alive with the author’s love of landscape and language, this is a book to savour.’ Choice Magazine

‘This is a novel of beautiful writing and careful structure, in tune with the gentle harmonies of autumn and yet aware of how ruin is always around the corner. … Crace has a great gift for clarity, his prose precise and heartfelt, achieving a timeless, polished quality.’ Daily Telegraph

‘Jim Crace, the son of a north London Co-op insurance agent, is a magician among British novelists … Harvest turns out to be a William Golding-like meditation of social change in a bucolic backwater and its sorry aftermath…. Crace’s 11th novel is a glory to read, as the intensely poetic prose is brought to a burnished pitch throughout.’ Evening Standard

‘Jim Crace is a Titan of the modern English novel. From Continent and The Gift of Stones on to Quarantine and The Pesthouse, he has won a slew of prizes without ever losing his popular touch. Hailed as the natural heir to William Golding, he has just published his latest novel, Harvest, to universal acclaim … Beautifully detailed, the writing doubles as a paean to the natural world, as Crace precisely outlines a rural peasantry’s paradise lost.’ Irish Examiner

‘The spirit of play in Crace’s work serves as the cover for a spirit of elegy. Starting from scratch- inventing cultures, fabricating epigraphs- better enables him to communicate his message, usually about transition and impermanence. His novels depict, in prose of sometimes overpowering richness, the encroachment of progress on a stone-age community, the Judean desert and a post-industrial city … The most seductive and enthralling of Crace’s novels, Harvest is also likely to be his last. Ending is its theme - or if not ending, then the destructiveness inherent in change.’ New Statesman

‘Crace, a spellbinding writer, graceful in style and intense in his feeling for the natural word, deeply disturbs our polite, picturesque fantasies of pre-industrial rural life.’ Saga

'[Harvest] allows Crace to indulge in his speciality: describing horrific acts of violence in ice-cool, ironic prose ... The book has the feel of a fable rather than an historical novel ... Crace’s greatest achievement is to convey the elemental pleasure of [the villagers'] lifestyle to readers.’ Sunday Express

‘Set just as common ground and strips of cultivation were being enclosed by landowners keen to reap much greater profits from sheep, it has a timeless quality that gives the central themes a continuing relevance, as immigration policy moves up the political agenda. This is achieved through a sparse structure and universal characters, but most of all through an extraordinarily metrical prose whose cadences echo across the centuries.’ Sunday Herald

‘Masterly, elegiac novel about an 18th-century village under threat.’ Sunday Times Culture

‘This is a novel with plenty of incident but little drama, creating its considerable power, instead, through Walter’s mesmerising narrative. At the end, it may not be too fanciful to conflate Walter and Crace, as the narrator steps out of bounds and says farewell to a way of life.’ Observer

‘Each of his 11 finely crafted novels fashions a unique climate, landscape and mood, a far cry from everyday realism though nothing to do with soppy or silly fantasy ... The latest, set in an isolated English village at some unspecified point in the pre-industrial past, is no exception. The story of a single fateful week in the community’s history is told by Walter Thirsk, a middle-aged peasant ... a story that is both topical and global ... Crace’s writing has the mesmerising quality of a prose poem ... The beauty of the country is “vividly described”, but the human race is seen as “brutish, instinctively cruel and stupid”. In this brilliant novel, greed wins.’ Week

‘The feel for landscape, and how man relates to it, is the crowning achievement of this fine novel. Crace’s precision of language, his mastery of his themes, the fullness of his imagination and his fastidiously well-made sentences offer abundant satisfactions.’ Times Literary Supplement

For Christmas I hope for Harvest, the last novel of that fine and unsparing writer Jim Crace. (Colin Thubron, Books of the Year Observer)

A spare, haunting book that offers a peasant's-eye view of a catastrophic week in an unnamed and remote feudal village. Interlopers arrive and the irruption marks the end of an age-old way of life. Shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize, it is one to savour - Crace has said that this is his last novel. (Books of the Year Financial Times)

There are three novels I've pressed most enthusiastically on people this year. Jim Crace's Booker-shortlisted Harvest, about land enclosure and dispossession, transports the reader into a past that feels more present than the world outside, yet also sheds an uneasy light on today. (Best Fiction of 2013 Guardian)

Masterly in its firm grip on what need only be intimated and what stated cleanly. It was easily the best-written novel of the year. (Philip Hensher, Books of the Year Spectator)

The most accomplished novelists can illuminate the present while making their chosen past live, move and talk. In Harvest, Jim Crace leaves the precise era unspecified as he writes, with all his near-hallucinatory skill, about an English village destroyed by the advent of agrubusiness. This intensely local story becomes, by the rhythmic majesty and fervour of its writing, a universal one. (Boyd Tonkin, Books of the Year Independent)

A community is torn apart by the threat of enclosure, in this beautifully written book, an early front-runner for this year's Man Booker (Best Books of 2013 Sunday Times)

Two novels this year stretched the bounds of historical fiction and were great page-turners too; Kate Atkinson's Life After Life and Jim Crace's Harvest . . . Crace's threnody to a dying rural culture has something of the same dreamlike power, a story with an almost brutally simple arc that is also lyrical and thought-provoking (Books of the Year Evening Standard)

Harvest, apparently Jim Crace's farewell to novelism, has [an] elusive quality. Set in a remote farming community that goes to hell in a handcart with the advent of land enclosures, it aspires to the unsettling self-assurance of a William Golding novel without ever quite cashing the cheque that its attitude promises. (Books of the Year Daily Telegraph)

From the Back Cover

'Inimitably excellent, Jim Crace stands on his own ground among living English novelists' Boyd Tonkin, Independent

'As finely written as it is tautly structured . . . an achievement worthy to stand alongside those of William Golding' Peter Kemp, Sunday Times

As late summer steals in and the final pearls of barley are gleaned, a village comes under threat. A trio of outsiders - two men and a dangerously magnetic woman - arrives on the woodland borders triggering a series of events that will see Walter Thirsk's village unmade in just seven days: the harvest blackened by smoke and fear, cruel punishment meted out to the innocent, and allegations of witchcraft.

But something even darker is at the heart of Walter's story, and he will be the only man left to tell it . . .

'Crace is a most meticulous and original novelist and this is one of his unquestionable masterpieces' Philip Hensher, Spectator

'Jim Crace is a magician . . . no one else writes with such a strange, enchanted clarity' Evening Standard

'Extraordinary' Guardian

'Masterly, elegiac' Sunday Times Culture

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Sally Zigmond VINE VOICE on 30 Mar. 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
What to say about Jim Crace's writing? Although he has achieved some recognition in the world of literary prizes and awards, he somehow manages to stay under the radar. Perhaps it's because his writing is quiet. He does not go for the controversial or the flamboyant flourish. Yet his writing remains modest and yet all the better for it.

Harvest follows the week in the life of a small un-named English community. We are not told where it is or when the events described happened. And don you know what? It doesn;t matter. It was 'once upon a time.' The novel opens the morning after the barley has all been gathered. Smoke hangs in the air. Something is wrong. This sense of disquiet deepens as a village lynch mob attack a group of three innocent strangers. The search for a woman among the strangers becomes a witch-hunt. Walter Thirsk, the novel's narrator and himself an erstwhile outsider in the community, is aware of the deeply disturbing currents of a changing society and the evil comes from within not out.

We twentieth-century western dwellers are confused about the past. We see it through rose-tinted lenses, according to our own lives. 'Things were uncomplicated,' we say. 'People knew their place, the agricultural life mirrored the seasons. Times were hard but everything was in balance.' Harvest-time conjures up bucolic jollity, companionship, a full barn, rosy-cheeks and a well-ordered world. But we can only look back because of the benefits modern life has brought us. But mostly life is what it is. We do not learn from the past and nothing changes. Humans havealways been suspicious of the new and the different. We are cruel; fear makes us as dangerous as a beast cornered. In Crace's community, sheep-farming is to replace the arable and there's nothing anyone can do about it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Calypso on 17 May 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Harvest ought to be a great story. The inherent conflict of a rural village faced with the threat of enclosure, a change of ownership and the arrival of strangers represents a powerful context against which to set the novel.

The first irritation with the book is in the style of narration. The introduction of agricultural terms and descriptions results in an almost metrical prose. That rhythm breaks the concentration and undermines the richness of the language.

The second structural issue is with the main protagonist, Walter Thirsk, who is absent from most of the significant events that bring destruction to this community. That absence allied with an emotional distance makes the whole story feel as if it is told rather than shown and frankly means the story holds little interest.

Major elements of the plot hold little credibility. The witchcraft accusations are unlikely in the context of the story and the ending is unsatisfactory. Disappointing.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Mme Suzanne Lageard on 9 Oct. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was astounded by how simple and yet how marvellous this novel was. It was the story of Walter Thirsk, a labourer in a village at the time of Harvest. Strangers appear and with them a whole chain of events starts, which ends in a change for everyone, not least the protagonist.
And yet it seems that there are no specific, particular events which happen. Rather, it is organic, each day merging with the one before and the one after even if each day brings us a step further towards the end. One sees the colours and feels the atmosphere of the harvest, of the rain. I was completely caught up in the story, reading for hours at a time, pulled forward by the magnificent writing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mrs christine M Head on 22 July 2014
Format: Paperback
I was given the task of presenting this to my Book Group and am I glad!. Read Quarantine with great interest but fell by the wayside with 'Being Dead' so was quite anxious about 'Harvest'. All the action takes place in 7 days in an unnamed village at some uncertain point in time.Told in the first person by a man who even after 12 years is still an outsider ,'Harvest' chronicles the disintegration of a way of life that had been unchanged for generations. A new Lord of the Manor and the Act of Enclosure together combine with unwelcome visitors to bring chaos to the well ordered and traditional life of the village. The story is wonderfully spun and even at the simplest level quite absorbing. However being a story by Jim Crace it is only right to look for allegories about the human condition and these may be suggested or dismissed. Is it coincidence that man manages to destroy his world in 7 days? Who are the strangers whose arrival is a catalyst for the unfolding events? Is this a battle of power over the powerless.? Etc. However the one predominant aspect of the book is the fantastic writing Crace has given us. His evocations of the countryside and all the wonderful descriptions of nature are just sublime. This is as near to poetry as prose may get. It is quite gorgeous. Sadly Crace has indicated that this will be his last novel. I do hope this means that he is not laying down his pen but turning his mind to other forms of writing. We need to keep hearing his music.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Sid Nuncius HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on 23 April 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I thought this was an excellent, engrossing and readable book. It has a depth and resonance which I found truly haunting and it has stayed with me very strongly since I finished it.

It is the story of a single week after harvest in a small English village. The exact period and place are unspecified, but the village is very isolated and has a subsistence agricultural economy which is threatened by enclosure for wool production. I think it is Crace's intention to leave us guessing a little in order to show that this could have happened at almost any time between about 1500 and 1800. The narration is by Walter Thirsk, a well-established resident but non-native of the village. We see through his experienced but slightly detached eyes what rural life was really like then: hard, precarious, sometimes brutal and sometimes very rewarding. There is a great deal of thoughtful insight about things like grief, the nature of loyalty and both the compassionate and responsible use of power and its uncaring, selfish abuse - which has some potent modern resonances. A lot happens as apparently small actions and their consequences grow to momentous events. I won't spoil the story by describing any of it, but it is brilliantly evoked in wonderful, atmospheric prose as events unfold showing how fragile even such a long-established community could be.

Walter is a decent, fallible protagonist and the story he tells is gripping, elegiac and haunting, told with a brilliantly balanced mixture of evocative detail and thoughtful, sometimes almost mystical prose. It is superbly done and I really do think this is an exceptionally good book. Very warmly recommended.
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