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"Glorious ... Harvest calls to mind J. M. Coetzee’s finest and most allegorical novel, Waiting for the Barbarians ... Crace writes with a particular, haunting empathy for the displaced ... His plots may be epic, but his sentences carry a sensual charge ... In his compassionate curiosity and his instincts for insurgent uncertainty, Crace surely ranks among our greatest novelists of radical upheaval, a perfect fit for our unstable, unforgiving age." —The New York Times Book Review
"The most seductive and enthralling of Crace’s novels." —New Statesman
"[Harvest] is intellectually and morally engaging while also being exciting to read ... Mr. Crace's imagery brilliantly suggests the loamy, lyric glories of rustic English language and life ... [he] devotes his considerable talents to telling an affecting tale of a bound world and its simple people as they head toward a tragic and inexorable breakdown."
—Wall Street Journal
"Surreptitiously thought-provoking ... Harvest attains a haunting and almost subversive quality." —Boston Globe
"Ravishingly rich in evocations of country life ... Crace’s prose is so sensual you can’t help but believe it describes an actual material place. But this village is like the forests of the Brothers Grimm, a setting meant to be both familiar and strange. If you think Crace is only talking about the shift from the medieval to the modern world, you’d be very, very wrong." —Salon
"In language beautiful and painstakingly precise, Jim Crace circumscribes the story as neatly as a fairy tale ... Entirely absorbing." —Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"Harvest is as finely written as it is tautly structured. Pungently flavoured with archaic words, its language is exhilaratingly exact, sometimes poetic and sometimes stark. 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." —The Sunday Times
"Crace, an original and a literary stylist, with, usually, something remarkable to say, says it here in a haunting work of sudden violence and vengeance ... Few novels as fine or as complex in their apparent simplicity will be published this, or indeed any, year." —Irish Times
"As with Crace's other novels, Harvest is deftly written, in language — formal, slightly archaic even — that reflects the setting it describes. It's also tightly plotted ... Crace's real concern is his characters, the way that, like all of us, they make mistakes and act from weakness, and turn on one another when things go wrong." —Los Angeles Times
"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."
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
The narrator of Jim Crace's Harvest introduces himself and his neighbors as plain, quiet folk. "We're not a hurtful people hereabouts," Walter Thirsk declares of an eighteenth- century community that is "?two days by post horse" from the nearest market town. Before summer has turned to fall, however, Walter's isolated English village will be convulsed by murder, rape, and mutilation. The land he loves will be home no longer.
This brooding tale opens innocently enough. "Two twists of smoke at a time of year too warm for cottage fires surprise us at first light," Walter observes. One comes from a strangers' encampment, the other from the village lord's dovecote, maliciously set alight. The fires will have dreadful consequences, but Crace lets the machinery of tragedy idle while he describes the nature of each. "Their fire is damp," Walter notes of the encampment's signal. "They will have thrown on wet greenery in order to procure the blackest plume, and thereby not be missed by us?." Master Kent's dovecote blaze, by contrast, consumes "...ancient wood. Long- felled. The years are in its smell." In a few brief sentences, Crace reveals not only what these people see but also how they see it (or smell it). Describing a summer night, a velvet shawl, a field of barley, or a skittish horse, he compels us to view this world through pre-modern eyes, slowing the narrative to walking pace as he ratchets up the tension.
Conflagration prompts action. Within hours, the villagers, "...too rooted in their soil....to be at ease with newcomers," demolish the new encampment but are briefly chastened by the arrival of two men with bows drawn. A woman emerges from the ruins, "?her black hair further darkened with a wound," transforming the encounter into "an occasion of shame." Only Mr. Earle, scribe and mapmaker to Master Kent, behaves gallantly. And he will later pay dearly for his goodness.
Accused of arson and theft, the two strangers are clamped in the pillory, but the wounded female vanishes. "A woman cannot do you any harm," Master Kent is assured by his brutal, usurping cousin. By this time, however, Kent's beloved mare has been viciously killed, and more human blood will soon be spilled. "A mighty storm of reckoning was on its way?," Walter frets, and Crace allows it to break with terrible force.
The novel's soaring drama remains rooted, however, in a landscape that is rhapsodically evoked. "From the lane," Walt reports on harvest day, "looking down toward the tracery of willows on the brook, the top end of our barley meadow, bristling and shivering on the breeze, showed us at last its ochers and its cadmiums?. And the smells, which for so long in this slow summer were faint and damp, became nutlike and sugary." This could be a description by Mary Webb or Thomas Hardy. Certainly Crace is at his most lyrical here, depicting a land and people about to be plowed under by progress, as common fields are enclosed for sheep pasture. Contemplating the map drawn by Mr. Earle, Walt sees what it cannot record. "He hasn't captured time," he observes, "how long a walk might take-how long the seasons or the nights must last." In Harvest, however, Crace has done just that.
Anna Mundow, a longtime contributor to The Irish Times and The Boston Globe, has written for The Guardian, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, among other publications.
Reviewer: Anna Mundow
Posted February 26, 2013
Posted April 26, 2013
I think this might be one of the most perfect novels I have ever read. Stylistically gorgeous; every sentence is high literature, without being effusive or heavy handed. There is the wonderful historical referent--the clearing of the commons, the dawning of capitalism proper. There is the remarkable complexity of characters: no real heroes, not even the narrator; a few villains; the cowardice of the agricultural laborers who work, and the heedless greed of those who own, the land. A murder mystery, a microscopic historical novel, an existential exploration of one man's perspective on the end of a land-bound way of life. I said it in another review, but Jim Crace is the Flaubert of our time.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 20, 2013