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Harvest Paperback – 13 Feb 2014

4.1 out of 5 stars 258 customer reviews

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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 (258 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 11,973 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


'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)


Crace's signature measured delivery and deliberate focus create unforgettably poetic passages that quiver with beauty. An electrifying return to form."--"Publishers Weekly", starred review"Rarely does language so plainspoken and elemental tell a story so richly open to interpretation on so many different levels....With economy and grace, the award-winning Crace gives his work a simplicity and symmetry that belie the disturbances beneath the consciousness of its narrator....Crace continues to occupy a singular place in contemporary literature. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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Exquisitely written, this haunting tale of what happens within a week to a farming village when three strangers intrude on this closed community reveals much about human nature and its darker impulses.

Crace's protagonist, Walter Thirsk, is an unreliable narrator of the events that lead the village's unravelling. That Thirsk is conveniently absent from some of the pivotal events often renders his point of view mere conjecture, and subject to rearrangement. The reader is never sure if things really happened the way he tells it. Add to that his penchant for village lore and belief in the supernatural, his interpretation of events is often preternatural. For example, Thirsk 'helpfully' sees the connections in the chain of events: "It feels as if some impish force has come out of the forest in the past few days to see what pleasure it can take in causing turmoil in a tranquil place."

When the strangers are captured and apprehended for suspected arson, and more mysterious events follow, the mercenary Master Jordan, a blood-cousin of the village head Master Kent's late wife, instigates a witch hunt that drives a wedge between the villagers, and loyalties are sorely tested. Thirsk's precarious position in the community soon comes to the fore. He was not born there, having come to the village not 12 years ago, and is not fair-headed like most of the inhabitants, whose forefathers had rooted themselves in the land since days of yore. That Thirsk had been something of Master Kent's right hand man of old, and yet not quite now on familiar terms, also adds to his sense of displacement.
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The story did not seem to go anywhere. It was very well written and showed how unfair justice could be before law and order was established - summary justice by probability not fact or proof. Life must have been cruel.
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I love a happy ending, so why have I given this book 5stars? It is serious and rather sad, but amazingly gripping. It is full of really wonderful visual images, and brings to life the reality of being a peasant in the Middle Ages and dealing with sickness, feudal landlords and the changes brought about in the countryside by changes in farming, the introduction of sheep, and the grabbing of common land.
I could not put it down.
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This was a story in which I found caring about the characters almost impossible. Long, tedious mountain climb of a novel!
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Arrived on time and as described
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Jim Crace's novel starts off promisingly - a group of strangers come to a remote village in what we assume is medieval England, trouble breaks out, and soon the village is in turmoil, only for further threats to arise when a relative of the local lord and landowner arrives to impose his will. The prose is beautiful and often poetic, and Crace's language to describe rustic life and long-forgotten agricultural practices is superb. The only real concern I had with this book was that the beauty of the prose seems to have outweighed the story itself, and I found myself losing interest in Walter Thirsk, the sympathetic main character, particularly in the closing third of the tale. This was a pity, as I do think that Crace could have done a little more to craft a more compelling story with more developed characters, some of whom are rustic caricatures. Worth a read, but I can see why it didn't win the 2013 Booker prize for which it was shortlisted.
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In some ways this is a simple story about the arrival of strangers in a remote rural area at the time of the barley harvest. Yet the protagonist (Walter Thirsk) is also a relative newcomer still grieving his dead wife, and can observe the events with some detachment. The strangers comprise so-called Mr Quill who is surveying the land for Master Kent and a family group of three who arrive and set up their camp at the beginning of the book.
Yet really the danger comes from another stranger, Master Jordan, who has managed to usurp Master Kent but the villagers are unable to distinguish friend from foe and set upon the family group with disastrous consequences.
What I liked about this book was the detail of the rural life which made the reader aware of the isolation and lawlessness of some rural areas and how the lurking dangers of fire, injury or random justice could ruin a man's life forever.
The characters are all drawn well and the plot moves along a pace beyond the wit of the villagers - yet there are also themes of loneliness and grief (Thirsk and Kent), bravery (Mr Quill) and fear (pretty much everyone).
It was almost a five star for me.
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