Most helpful positive review
56 of 62 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2013
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.