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55 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bewitching
Harvest is a wicked and delightful read.

As is the case with many of Crace's story lines, it's a relatively simple one: The placid order of a remote, pre-industrial English village and the estate upon which it depends, is disrupted by a number of events that include three mysterious squatters who come into conflict with both the 60 people who call the village...
Published 22 months ago by Martin Zook

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29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Vividly Poetic, Yet Anti-Climactic
The novel opens with mystery and intrigue. We get drawn in as a village collectively remains silent on a moral question of dire circumstances. Things only go downhill from that point, as the life they are accustomed to morphs into something else entirely. We watch as a whole community loses their grip on morality and even sanity at the same time they lose everything else...
Published 21 months ago by K.


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55 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bewitching, February 18, 2013
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This review is from: Harvest: A Novel (Hardcover)
Harvest is a wicked and delightful read.

As is the case with many of Crace's story lines, it's a relatively simple one: The placid order of a remote, pre-industrial English village and the estate upon which it depends, is disrupted by a number of events that include three mysterious squatters who come into conflict with both the 60 people who call the village home, and the ruling authorities of the estate. The estate's precarious equilibrium is also threatened by a new "order" imposed by a new owner, whose entrance is seemingly a result of history and economic development, and by happenstance.

Thematically, there's much of the pagan and reverence for mother earth in this tome.

The story unfolds through the eyes of Walter Thirsk, who is an interloper through the story. He has a modern appeal in his ironic perspective and expressions, while his perspective is deeply rooted in the timeless relationship of man and nature.

I don't want to reveal too much of how all this unfolds for fear of ruining the reading experience. But there are about as many turns and twists in the narrative as can be bundled into a 208-page narrative.

For those who relish the reward of reading a well-crafted mystery/thriller, Harvest will yield bountiful results. Crace is one of a few top-drawer stylists on the isle of England. And, I find Harvest consistent with other wonderful books he has written.

For those of us who prefer some thought - given the characters and the action what are the possibilities going forward - Crace weaves that into the text effortlessly, and invisibly for those who don't want to clutter up their reading experience with too much thinking.

One of the many things I enjoy about Crace's work is that he encourages the reader to explore some basic and fundamental questions about our world and how we perceive it. Dare we call them philosophical, or even religious questions? For instance, I for one regard being dead differently as a result of having read his Being Dead.

Harvest is a transformational allegory, not unlike the better works of fellow English stylists Ian McEwan, and Barry Unsworth. By the end of the story, everything is changed, but nothing is changed. A blank portrait of the manor and village serves as a metaphor at both the beginning and end of the tale.

What is revealed at the end, when all is said and done (ha, ha), is what underlies the existence of all the characters and their social order build on the underlying foundation that is beyond words, if that makes any sense.

It's worth noting that Mother Earth - in all of her mythical qualities - may reasonably be considered the main character. And, maybe, a woman trespassing on the village's order is a manifestation of Mother Earth, or maybe she's a witch, or maybe she's both. Only the reader will know with any degree of certainty, if certainty is possible.

Crace's description of the low land of the estate, known among the locals as the Turd and Turf, is to die for. Through Thirsk's eyes we see the village's natural latrine through a vision bawdy in the Canterbury tradition, but also he reveals the juxtaposed beauty of the plants that grow in the marshland. Harvest' evocation of the barley fields and other elements of the landscape are quite touching as well.

Harvest not only conjures up Canterbury tales, but also biblical images, as one would expect from Crace, who probably best can be described as a spiritual atheist. For, in the end, this is a story about the garden, its original inhabitants, how they went wrong, and how their sons and daughters have been repeating essentially the same mistakes ever since, always starting from the same blank slate.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great author, April 22, 2013
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This review is from: Harvest (Kindle Edition)
This novel is narrated by Walter Thirsk, a farmer on the Jordan Estate somewhere in England. The hamlet where he lives is a day's walk from the nearest church or inn and there are few visitors. The lord of the manor, Master Kent, is kindly. He and Walter were childhood friends and Walter worked as his servant before marrying a local woman and taking up farming. The small village has no name and we are not told the time or specific location, but we are in sixteenth century England as the commons are being enclosed and an ancient way of life is coming to an end.

The master's cousin, who has title to the lands, is planning to turn the estate over to sheep farming. From Henry VIII on, the Tudors set up a regime of tariff protection and subsidies to build the wool industry. It is the sort of economic policy that gives modern free trade advocates apoplexy, but it laid the foundation for Britain's wealth over the next few centuries, albeit at a human cost.

The novel opens the day after the harvest. Already there are signs of the old settled ways being disturbed. Someone has set fire to the master's stables, a man engaged by the master is mapping the village, and some outsiders have arrived and set up residence. The latter are not welcome - the harvest is meagre enough and the local population has been dwindling because there are too many mouths to feed.

The culprits who set the fire are known, except to the master, but the villagers seek to shift the blame to the newcomers. The villagers are also fearful and distrustful of the strange man who is mapping the land and they wonder what he is about. The annual cycle that is just ending - sowing, harvest, gleaning, celebration - has been never-ending for those born and bred here but Walter understands that the old seasonal calendar is coming to an end and that the future will never be the same.

The newcomers are punished for the fire but they will seek revenge for the wrongs done to them. The master's cousin arrives with a gang of men and it is clear that radical changes are on the horizon. They take an aggressive stance towards the villagers which leads to confrontation, but how effective can this be in the face of a power most of the villagers cannot comprehend?

Walter's wife died and so he is no longer wedded to this place - in both senses of the term. He begins to consider ways out. Could he go into service with the peculiar man doing the mapping, resume his role as servant to Master Kent, or should he try his chances elsewhere? These questions begin to occupy much of his thoughts.

More misfortune and violence haunt the village and each household has to make a decision about its future. The ruminations that trouble Walter begin to take hold of everyone. Can the old ways survive or will the village be overwhelmed? The period in which this novel is set saw some of the most profound changes in rural life in England and the human dimension of these changes is explored in this engrossing and atmospheric story.

Those with wealth and power do not see the village or its traditions in terms of the social bonds, the seasonal character of the land or the culture that understands and celebrates the world in which it lives. To men with money the village is just a set of material assets, including people, that need to be re-configured in a way that will increase the wealth of a few. As in any age, the rich are ever willing to use threats and violence to get their way. Once you are a slave to greed, seeing people and the world around you as things to be manipulated, then cruelty and force become common sense.

The kindly master is seen as weak by his cousin but the villagers wait to see if he will defend their livelihoods or fall into line with the new regime. It will be a test of where his loyalties lie.

The descriptions of a long lost rural life, the details of the natural world and the relationships between the villagers are all depicted in rich and eloquent prose. You are quickly drawn into the world that Jim Crace creates and I found the story absorbing. With a small cast in a very small settlement Crace has examined the impact of a momentous period in English history that has echoes even in our modern age. Jim Crace is a prolific author but this is the first novel of his that I have read. I will now be seeking out the others, for this is a great author.
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29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Vividly Poetic, Yet Anti-Climactic, March 22, 2013
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K. (Kentucky, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Harvest: A Novel (Hardcover)
The novel opens with mystery and intrigue. We get drawn in as a village collectively remains silent on a moral question of dire circumstances. Things only go downhill from that point, as the life they are accustomed to morphs into something else entirely. We watch as a whole community loses their grip on morality and even sanity at the same time they lose everything else. And at one point, it seems as though the novel is building toward something grand, something amazing, something cataclysmic. And yet, it fails to deliver. After about the halfway point, the story slumps, offering nothing else noteworthy; alluding to the possibility of a major reveal or perhaps a strong/shocking twist but never delving any further than surface level. Indeed, we get nothing in the conclusion. The story painfully limps along during the last 1/3 or so, and then it just -simply- ends, leaving us with a lot of unanswered questions and a protagonist who finally makes the choice he should have made long before. Perhaps it was a plot device to add bulk? Or maybe it was an opportunity to provide more insight into the mind of the main character as justification for his actions. Either way, I'd say it was ill-advised. I certainly felt disappointed in the anti-climactic nature of this novel.

This book is also weighed down by dense though alluring prose sprinkled with very little dialogue. As such, it seems to stretch on for much longer than it's slim binding would suggest. I can't say it's an easy read but it is definitely gorgeous.

Cautiously recommended for lovers of the Literary genre, only, as I don't see how anyone else would really enjoy this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prose Poetry, January 5, 2014
By 
Tropical Gal (Central America) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Harvest: A Novel (Kindle Edition)
The plot is low key but the prose is compelling and beautiful. It draws the reader into the landscape - rural pre-industrial England - and into the mind of the protagonist - a somewhat educated, town-bred individual transplanted to the countryside. I was hooked from the first paragraph. I couldn't put the book down and when I did, I couldn't get it out of my mind. This is a book that could be read twice in the same week-end and be as enjoyable the second time around as the first.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Slow, but well written, August 11, 2013
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This review is from: Harvest: A Novel (Kindle Edition)
When I started this book I took a break after about a quarter of the way through because it was slow and wasn't sure if I wanted to read it. A few days later I decided to go back to it and got hooked. The development of the characters and seeing into the mind of the main one was intriguing and caught my curiosity.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, April 26, 2013
By 
Jane Stivarius (Miami Beach Florida) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Harvest: A Novel (Hardcover)
The Driven Off the Land genre in fiction contains many examples including Zola's "La Terre" and Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath." Crace's take on the topic was off to an interesting start but then fizzled, leaving me with a sense that, compared to Zola and Steinbeck, Mr. Crace felt no passion for his subject or his characters. Consequently I was left with the feeling that in this book there's no there there.

The quote from the New York Times Book Review "Harvest calls to mind J. M. Coetzee's finest and most allegorical novel, Waiting for the Barbarians" has me wondering if the NYT reviewer had actually read "Waiting for the Barbarians"
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars superb writing, December 26, 2013
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This review is from: Harvest (Paperback)
This is a beautifully written book about what is, to me, an interesting topic:the time period, in England, when farmers were being displaced from their land to make way for the raising of sheep. Far from the typical historical account, this book really gets you into the head of the narrator and provides an apparently authentic glimpse of the attitudes of various social classes towards one another. It is a far from happy tale, with mystery and tragedy aplenty. In the end, though, you are left with some sense of satisfaction and,certainly, a better understanding of social upheaval of the time. Above all, however, I value this book for its really outstanding literary quality.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a wonderful book, November 1, 2013
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Mr Kim Williams (Sydney, NSW Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Harvest (Kindle Edition)
Really surprising that it did not win the Man Booker, given its effortless prose and fine subtle story telling - one of Crace's best books.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius, April 2, 2013
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This review is from: Harvest: A Novel (Kindle Edition)
This man can write! The voice completely captured me from the first page and I found myself stopping to give allow time to absorb what I had read and to postpone finishing the book - I just didn't want it to end... at the same time I wanted to know what was going to happen. A subtle plot unfolds so gradually one barely notices how its tentacles have ensnared the reader and drawn in the psyche to the point of enchantment. Like a fairy tale told when one was young enough to surrender completely and believe... I LOVED this book and immediately downloaded two more. The next one showed Crace's skill as a writer because it's equally as mesmerizing but a completely different voice! Wonderful.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Complexity of Simple Living, May 12, 2014
This review is from: Harvest (Paperback)
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. Neither is he close to his nearest neighbour, ("John and I do not put up our feet at each other's hearths"), and though he has a part-time affair with a widow, it is merely physical and he forms no real connection with anyone. In the midst of it all, Thirsk's immense isolation becomes apparent to the reader, and his bumbling narrative only arouses pity.

The simplicity of the agrarian society is rather aptly captured in the lyricism of Crace's prose, which comes through at every turn in the book. The closeness of nature is unveiled in the elements, and comes alive, for example, in these lines: "It's midnight rain, the sort that in the darkness has no form until it reaches you, until it strikes with the cold and keen insistence of a silver-worker's mallet." When Thirsk contemplates the interior of a neighbour's house that he had never seen, he muses: "It's certain that you cannot tell from how a person works or how a person strolls behind her hens what kind of life they live in secrecy."

Brilliant.
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Harvest: A Novel
Harvest: A Novel by Jim Crace (Hardcover - February 12, 2013)
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