In his previous 10 novels, the versatile Crace has been heralded for his firmly rooted, painstakingly detailed impressions of time and place, and his latest work is no exception. In fact, the setting—an isolated English farming village, in an unspecified past, with its “planched and thicketed” inhabitants—is so imaginatively described that it stands as the book’s richest character. Over the course of seven days following the harvest, the hamlet is alight with sudden change. A mysterious fire has set Master Kent’s manor stables and dovecote ablaze. Three newcomers—two men and an ominously alluring woman—who arrived that same night are hastily blamed for the fire. All three have their heads shaved as punishment, and the men are shackled for a week to a pillory. When one of them dies and the master’s favorite horse is later found bludgeoned to death, accusations of witchcraft erupt from within the townsfolk’s ranks and nothing, not even the secretive Master Kent’s halfhearted attempt at rooting out the truth and delivering justice, can quell the thirst for revenge that rattles the once principled town to its foundation. Walter Thirsk plays the perfect unreliable narrator; his deliberations about Master Kent’s true intentions, his neighbors’ guilt, and his own role in the events deepen an already resonant story. Crace’s signature measured delivery and deliberate focus create unforgettably poetic passages that quiver with beauty. An electrifying return to form after All That Follows. Agent: David Godwin, DGA, U.K. (Feb.)
Crace (Being Dead) is a master at creating worlds at once familiar and startlingly sui generis. In a premodern English village, the biblical caution "As ye reap, so ye shall sow" proves true both literally and figuratively; with the hard work of planting and harvesting as backdrop, we see the villagers move inexorably toward a tragedy they've provoked. One morning, Master Kent's stable is found burning, and strangers who have peaceably signaled their presence by sending up the customary smoke plume are blamed; their heads are shaved, and the two men are put in stocks. The only one to show them sympathy is odd Mr. Quill, hired to map the village lands. As suggested by the narrator, Walt—himself an outsider brought to the manor by Master Kent—that mapping heralds a foreboding shift in the village's future that parallels its current troubles. VERDICT A quietly breathtaking work revealing how fate plays with us as we play with fate; highly recommended. [Prepub Alert, 8/27/12]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
Rarely does language so plainspoken and elemental tell a story so richly open to interpretation on so many different levels. Is this a religious allegory? An apocalyptic fable? A mystery? A meditation on the human condition? With economy and grace, the award-winning Crace (The Pesthouse, 2007, etc.) gives his work a simplicity and symmetry that belie the disturbances beneath the consciousness of its narrator. It's a narrative without specifics of time or place, in the countryside of the author's native England, following a harvest that will prove different than any the villagers have ever experienced, in a locale where, explains the narrator, "We do not even have a title for the village. It is just The Village. And it's surrounded by The Land." In the beginning, the narrator speaks for the community, "bounded by common ditches and collective hopes," yet one where "[t]heir suspicion of anyone who was not born within these boundaries is unwavering." The "they" proves crucial, as the narrator who initially speaks for the collective "we" reveals that he is in fact an outsider, brought to the village 12 years earlier by the man who is the master of the manor, and that he is someone who has become a part of the community, yet remains apart from it. There has been a fire following the harvest, disrupting the seasonal cycle, and although evidence points to three young men within the community, blame falls on two men and a woman who have recently camped on the outskirts. There is also someone making charts of the land and an issue of succession of ownership. There is a sense that this harvest may be the last one for these people, that the land may be converted to different use. "[P]lowing is our sacrament, our solemn oath, the way we grace and consecrate our land," yet that way of life may soon be over. "There isn't one of us--no, them--who's safe," declares the narrator, who must ultimately come to terms with the depths of his solitude. Crace continues to occupy a singular place in contemporary literature.
Winner of the James Tait Black Prize!
Longlisted for the Man Booker prize!
"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, National Book Award-winning author of Let the Great World Spin
"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