Harvest

Harvest

Book - 2013
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SHORT-LISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE

On the morning after harvest, the inhabitants of a remote English village awaken looking forward to a hard-earned day of rest and feasting at their landowner's table. But the sky is marred by two conspicuous columns of smoke, replacing pleasurable anticipation with alarm and suspicion.

One smoke column is the result of an overnight fire that has damaged the master's outbuildings. The second column rises from the wooded edge of the village, sent up by newcomers to announce their presence. In the minds of the wary villagers a mere coincidence of events appears to be unlikely, with violent confrontation looming as the unavoidable outcome. Meanwhile, another newcomer has recently been spotted taking careful notes and making drawings of the land. It is his presence more than any other that will threaten the village's entire way of life.

In effortless and tender prose, Jim Crace details the unraveling of a pastoral idyll in the wake of economic progress. His tale is timeless and unsettling, framed by a beautifully evoked world that will linger in your memory long after you finish reading.
Publisher: New York : Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, c2013
Edition: 1st U.S. ed
ISBN: 9780385520775
Branch Call Number: CRACE
Characteristics: 208 p. ; 25 cm

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uncommonreader
Oct 05, 2015

An interesting picture of rural England at the moment of the enclosures. There are parallels to be seen between the medieval world on the point of great change and to-day, with similarly destructive results in both cases for nature.

DevilStateDan Aug 05, 2015

A timeless setting dealing with tribal behaviours & coping (or not) with changes in not only your own personal circumstance but the entire world at large. Scared humans are capable of much atrocity if they consider their world under threat, it seems.
Superbly written with the storyline gaining tempo in line with the perceived perils on the page. Highly recommended & one of the highlights in my
#2015ReadingChallenge
#ABookWithAOneWordTitle

FederalWayEdna Nov 05, 2014

Crace's writing style mimics college required (lit majors) 19th century English literature novels with the main character constantly reflecting on his own behavior, sometimes justifying, sometimes self-deprecating, and the weaknesses of the villagers (perhaps because they never finished the church) and, the naïve and lenient landowner who, without trial, locks up newcomers who he believes started a fire in his barn (couldn't be a known culprit) which starts a downward spiral of the pastoral life in this small, remote English village. Excellent writing.

a
abroomfi
May 21, 2014

Admittedly, Harvest is not an easy novel to read. It is deeply unsettling, and although it is a highly literary work (beautiful prose, a slow and careful cadence), it can also be a page-turner in the worst of ways: you dread what will come next, but you nonetheless are mesmerized and reluctant to put the book down.

There's so much one can say about the plot or literary style of the novel. My only contribution to the discussion is to suggest that Crace gives voice, and a lit match, to resentments, pains, and anxieties that the Industrial Revolution brought scores of humble village people, and that have had striking ramifications, as overlooked or unconsidered as they might be.

As difficult and as unfair as feudal English village life and the class hierarchy was, the rhythms of nature were largely unquestioned, and the routines were fixed, or seemed to be so. Common land allowed common people a place to raise their meat supply and milk and cheese supply. Their livelihoods of working for the lord of the manor net them a share in the precious grains and fruits that the lord brought in each year. The seasons gave the villagers' labor a sense of purpose and productivity, well as some time to rest when the winter was at its deepest. While some years harvests were sparse and people were hungry, in other years, harvests were plentiful and (if people labored hard), there was enough to eat.

The coming of agricultural reform, itself part of a long and painful Industrial Revolution, upended these rhythms, hierarchies of class, and unquestioned routines. Although there was unrest in the form of rick burning and other vandalism carried out by petrified agricultural laborers, the ultimatum for most was to submit to the changes brought about from elsewhere, particularly London and the new cities of the Industrial North with its Captains of Industry. Enclosure of land and clearing of brush ended many people's abilities to raise some of their own food. Laborers were no longer hired and housed year-round, so those who remained in agriculture often found themselves starving. The majority were forced, due to starvation, into mill towns to take jobs at new factories, where they lost what little autonomy that they had had as farmer laborers.

Crace, with the spectacular ending of his novel, thus gives credence to the smoldering, sorrowing, and lingering feelings of helplessness and worthlessness that thousands of rural Englanders would have felt from the mid-1700s into the late 1800s. In giving credence, Crace subtly suggests that this story of change, or "progress", is hardly a dead one. We live in a time of tremendous upheaval, where little if anything of the old ways and means of labor can be depended on. Our technological revolution thus ties us to a previous revolution that would have seemed long forgotten, but perhaps, Crace is suggesting, forgotten only at our peril.

b
bookwormjeph
Oct 28, 2013

I really enjoyed this book. Jim writes in a very descriptive and lyrical style that flows smoothly and pulls the reader along into the changing nature of the agricultural system due to the the change in farming practises e.g. from self sufficient manor type activity which supported a village, to sheep farming, which displaced thousands of workers and destroyed communities in rural England.

I wondered how thorough his research was as it also reads as excellent expose of what life was really like at that time in history.

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SlotFather
Jun 14, 2014

These are the stories that we tell ourselves and only ourselves, and they are better left unshared.

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