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This review is from: Harvest (Paperback)
When the Booker short-list was announced I decided that there were two titles that were for me. I loved 'The Testament of Mary' (and have reviewed it) and I also chose Jim Crace's 'Harvest'. There is no doubt that Crace writes well. He has a poet's ear for the sound of language and his descriptions of scenes, feelings and the things that engage and motivate people are impressive. I imagine these are the things that actually got him short-listed. However, that said and acknowledged, I found the overall book unsatisfying. It has little pace, no context and the significant events that affect the narrative and move it forwards all feel contrived by the author, rather than natural and inevitable.
The story takes place over one single week and involves a completely (almost mythically) isolated community of people. The appearance of a few outsiders somehow destabilises the village and drives it into extinction. It is a tale of fear, superstition, control and in-breeding. It is like looking down a microscope at a drop of pond-water and watching the creatures swim for their lives.
I found myself seriously wondering whether it was actually science-fiction. That sounds ridiculous, but given that the requirement for science-fiction is the assumption of one 'impossible' idea, after which everything must follow naturally and normally, I feel that is the pattern of this book. The 'impossible idea' is that this community could ever be so completely isolated form the real world. No travellers pass through it, no-one in it has a concept of 'outside', no church has ever been built, no community buildings like shops, for example, exist within it. This is simply a space-ship full of isolated people travelling between the stars, devoid of context, with a closed community inside it, driving each other to extinction. I struggled to finish it.
Yes, Crace has a remarkable ear, but does he have a credible story to tell? I think not.