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4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Format: Audio Download|Change

on 17 May 2017
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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on 27 August 2017
Has it's moments when the mystery is well constructed but is generally slow and disjointed. Most of the characters who aren't the main character are left without any depth. Reached the point where I was happy when it was over.
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on 30 November 2015
Beautifully scripted tome
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on 19 March 2017
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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on 25 October 2014
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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on 5 August 2014
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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on 19 November 2013
I am a big fan of historical fiction and I was initially gripped by the beauty of the writing and the promise of a good story. This delight was short lived, however, as I realised about half way through that it was becoming tedious. I did not empathise with the main character, Walter Thirsk, whose character was not fleshed out. He was always a bystander in the action, an observer, a man who did not belong - I guess that was the point but it did not make good reading. I was dissatisfied with the way the story meandered, there was no satisfying conclusion, a lot of unanswered questions. I did finish the book but it was a struggle.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 2 November 2017
Set in some unspecified time in a remote English village; an era of lowly peasant farmers and the lord of the manor; witchcraft, brutal punishments, a vulnerable and superstitious working class...
Taking place over a week or so, this is narrated by widower Walter Thirsk, an unknowable character. He's an outsider to the village despite living here some years; he's not 'one of them.' The story opens on a positive note- the harvest's in, the (fairly) mild mannered lord is sponsoring a celebratory meal, they're crowning the 'Gleaning Queen.
' But dark clouds are gathering- three strangers have set up camp nearby. The lord is thinking of raising sheep instead of barley; his clerk is surveying the fields -this could be a massive change to their life. There's random acts of frustration against him; and then his relative, who stands to inherit, arrives...
I didn't think I was going to like this but you get caught up in the poetic writing and the fast-moving events. Thirsk never really reveals himself; he's always 'going to' do the right thing but repeatedly fails to. Is he on the villagers' side or the lord's?
There's a lot of interpretations of the text that occurred to me as i read. The ordinary folk who stood by, full of excuses, as some group was persecuted?
Pretty good read.
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on 30 September 2013
Harvest is an excellent read. It held me from page one and the whole sense of a peculiar world and micro-culture was at times quite eerie! I liked the first person narrative, seeing the world through Walter's eyes and how the story gradually revealed its twists and turns. On the one hand I felt uplifted by the sense that there is always a new beginning. Nevertheless it was a pretty chilling tale. The themes are dark, revealing a quagmire of tension and betrayal under the picturesque veneer of village life. The author's thickly descriptive and evocative prose portrays such oppositional aspects of the landscape in the swamp and the barley field which are excellent metaphors for the social world in which he negotiates his being. Life and security are fragile in this weirdly timeless environment. While the whole fabric is shifting from subsistence to cash crop, a whole community disintegrates in a rapid sequence of disturbing events. Yet it is also about redemption, moving on, rising from the ashes. This is I think a work of eerie genius, reminding us how life can change very dramatically in a short time, how people can become unrecognisable. The historical period was also intriguing, as well as the fact that the reader had to figure it out as the book progressed. Brilliant book.
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on 23 March 2016
The author leaves the precise temporal and geographical setting of this novel unspecified, presenting the reader with the rather enjoyable puzzle of piecing together when and where the story takes place. From the clues that Crace feeds us, I would hazard to say that it is set during the Jacobean period, somewhere on the English chalklands (although it could feasibly be a decade either side of this span).

The language is richly bucolic and satisfying, and the plot device he employs is effective in bringing to life the historically important, although frequently forgotten, phenomenon of the enclosure of the commons. That said, for all of its country conceits, it seemed plain to me that Crace is no countryman, for who else but a townsman would think that elderberries and sloes were edible? Granted, elderberries can be made into wine or jam, but in the early seventeenth century the price of sugar was so prohibitively high as to render its transformation into jam by the common folk of his tale unfeasible. Furthermore, nobody who has bitten into a sloe would surely care to repeat the mistake, for it feels as if it strips the enamel from your teeth in an instant. Sloe gin would not come until much later, once the price of sugar had fallen, and following the popularisation of the spirit after the accession of William of Orange to the English throne.

Crace makes the sloppy error of repeating the commonly accepted trope that the English employed burning as a punishment for witchcraft. This was indeed the favoured penalty in Scotland and in many continental European countries, but not in England; the English preferred to hang their witches, reserving burning for heretics.

Crace also labours the theme of the outsider being made a scapegoat by a tightly knit community. This theme has become a common trope in much contemporary fiction, and the reader will not perhaps therefore be surprised to discover that it is the villagers, who are predominantly blonde, who are held up to be beastly to the innocent dark-haired incomers; Crace's politics are laid on with a trowel.

Overall, I did enjoy reading this short novel, and ideally would like to have awarded it a 3.5. I’m feeling generous today though, so I’ll give it a four.
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