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This review is from: Arcadia (Paperback)
I was told that Jim Crace was on a train journey and saw a fellow passenger reading one of his books. He asked him what he thought of the book without revealing that he was the author. The fellow passenger told him he thought it rubbish. What would I say about this book if Jim Crace were to ask me what I think?
The first thing I would love to know is which city did Jim Crace have in mind when he wrote about the city in Arcadia. I know that he has a connection with Birmingham, where he (and I too) was a student and where he still lives. He has said that the redevelopment of Birmingham in the late 80s early 90s provided some background but that readers from cities as disparate as Detroit and Singapore have recognised their own cities in the events described in the book. It stands very much as any and all cities.
The book concerns an open market in the city in which one man, Victor, an 80 year old millionaire who has made his fortune from the lowliest depth as the child of a beggar to being the owner of the entire market. How he did it is not explained but we see him as an old man planning to tear down the old market and build a brand new multi storey air conditioned market as a lasting memorial to his achievements. However, in this process something gets lost.
I don't really use markets anymore, preferring to buy my goods in supermarkets. I can see that something is being lost in this transformation of food shopping and reading this book made me think back to my childhood when we did go to individual market stalls to purchase our fruit and vegetables and meats. I still vaguely recall seeing livestock being sold at Peterborough Market in the late 60s (when I was about 5) before that market was redeveloped and covered with a huge metal canopy and such trade ceased in the city when it was redeveloped in the 1970s. The thing that markets achieved was to bring the countryside into the cities. The changing of the seasons and vagaries of the weather had tangible effects on local harvests and the produce that could be seen in markets. Now that goods can be harvested and transported in any country and brought over bigger distances and plonked in supermarkets whatever the season, I wonder whether we have lost that natural sense of season that former generations had. Certainly the noisy banter and profusion of smells one finds in a market is lost in Victor's vision of Arcadia.
The book is not just about Victor and his market though. There is his wily assistant, who tries to become his nemesis but is eventually hoist on his own petard and the traders themselves as well as a host of other ne'er do wells.
I have really enjoyed reading this book and think that Jim Crace has a fantastic way with words and it was a real pleasure to be introduced to his work. I intend to read other books by him.
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Initial post: 16 Jun 2014 12:18:14 BDT
Eileen Shaw says:
Very enjoyable review - thank you. I would put Crace up there with Jose Saramago, lately a Pulitzer winner.
In reply to an earlier post on 28 Jun 2014 23:31:44 BDT
Thank you for your comment. I have just obtained a Saramago novel, "Raised from the Ground", from my local library and am about to start reading it.
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