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The Wake Hardcover – April 3, 2014

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Editorial Reviews


'A literary triumph' Adam Thorpe 'Extraordinary' Philip Pullman 'A resonant, eloquent ballad of English identity, pride and fierce independence. It is a thrilling story. Read it out loud. It is like nothing else.' Mark Rylance 'Reading Kingsnorth's book is to be immersed in the past and in a story in a way that I haven't really felt since childhood. It's time travel between hard covers, and the most glorious experience I've had with a book in years' Lucy Mangan, the Guardian 'It takes time and concentration, but it is effort repaid because, like William Golding's The Inheritors (1955), it forces you into another, more ancient way of seeing things.' The Sunday Times 'Haunting - more truly relevant to where we are now than many of the other books on the Man Booker longlist.' Daily Mail 'Strange and extraordinary - this unusual novel has power. It lingers in the imagination.' The Times 'The message of this extraordinary novel is as honest and timely as it is discomforting: being waecend to the grim fate of your society doesn't mean you can do anything to prevent it happening.' Times Literary Supplement 'In its refusal to yield easy answers, Kingsnorth's extraordinary, unsettling tale of the 11th Century makes not only a surprisingly satisfying novel, but a deeply modern one, too.' Melissa Harrison, Caught By The River 'An astonishing feat of imagination' Heathcote Williams 'An extraordinary, original and spellbinding book' Jay Griffiths

About the Author

Paul Kingsnorth is a writer, poet and ecological activist. In 2009, he co- founded the Dark Mountain Project, an international network of writers, artists and thinkers in search of new stories for rapidly-changing times. His book Real England was widely praised as a crucially important study of modern England and was compared to Cobbett, Priestly and Orwell. The Wake is his first novel. He lives in Ulverston, Cumbria

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Unbound; First Edition edition (April 3, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1908717866
  • ISBN-13: 978-1908717863
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.5 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #399,243 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

The story itself is fascinating account of history and the language captures this really well.
Rupert Lewis
Kingsnorth used this style because of what he calls anachronistic language in historical novels, however I am not sure that his was any less anachronistic.
Kathleen Gorvel
I started this book 7 different times: each time ended with me wanting to rip the pages out of the book-especially difficult as I was reading on a Kindle.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Katherine Mackenzie on August 21, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Upon reading the 2014 Man Booker longlist announcement, I was immediately drawn to The Wake because of it's unique premise and because I believe it's the prize's first crowdsourced nomination. Sourced by readers? I had to give it a try.

What is perhaps the most unique about this novel, and needs to be mentioned, is the language. Written in a version of Old English created by the author for layman readers, I didn't know what to expect. But what I think should be made clear is that Paul Kingsnorth didn't write this novel intending it to be a chore for the reader. He wrote it this way to reflect the world it takes place in, and he did so beautifully. The story is fascinatingly alien, and utterly relevant to a time we can only try and imagine. I appreciate Kingsnorth's reasoning in the note on the language:

"The way we speak is specific to our time and place. Our assumptions, our politics, our worldview, our attitudes - all are implicit in our words, and what we with them. To put 21st-century sentences into the mouths of eleventh century characters would be the equivalent of giving them iPads and cappuccinos: Just wrong."

And he's right. Ever get annoyed reading modern morals in a character of historical fiction? I bet Kingsnorth would too, but by taking the brilliant extra steps with language he's created something magical. Once you pick up on the "rules" of the language, reading it becomes second nature. It nourishes the story, never detracting from the tale. There is a partial glossary in the back, but I didn't use it once. Kingsnorth did all the hard work for us, and I found joy in understanding his new words through context.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By M. Mills on August 17, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
"i is buccmaster of holland i is a socman a man of the wapentac i has three oxgangs and this is my werod."

This proud declaration is repeated by the narrator throughout this thoroughly researched and beautifully written historical novel. After French invaders have destroyed villages throughout England, Buccmaster reminds nearly everybody he encounters that he is a free English tenant farmer of roughly 60 acres, was a member of the shire court of justice and now leads a small ragtag band of resistance fighters in the years following the Norman invasion. There is a helpful glossary, but frankly I tried not to use it, instead letting the words flow by (it helps to read aloud) and learning their meaning from their context. Pretty soon the barrier of author Paul Kingsnorth's "shadow language" falls and you're in another world.

The reason to read The Wake, however, is not to test your patience with pseudo-archaic linguistics (we have Klingon for that). It's the tale itself, the view it gives into the lives of simple English farmers who would lose everything, and the larger message it conveys that we humans do, in fact, tend to repeat history rather than learn from it. Since history is written by and for the victors, The Wake aims to give the conquered of 1066 their due. But Kingsnorth doesn't paint in black and white. Yes, there are the evil French invaders, raping, murdering and pillaging England under the cross of Rome. But as the novel progresses, it becomes clear Buccmaster may not be the most reliable narrator, and his defense of the old ways, in the service of his already anachronistic English gods of the forest, fen and sea, becomes its own brand of violent fanaticism. Indeed, the parallels to today's continued problem of state and tribal warfare in the name of religion make this novel surprisingly thought-provoking and relevant.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John Bridges on August 26, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Really! The "shadow" language the author has developed here, merging archaic Old English with modern English, is difficult to interpret at first, but a little ways in it invaded my head with its poetic rhythms and words like "fugols", "ingengas" and the "eald hus" showed up in my dreams. I've long been a fan of the creative use of language and the invention of new vocabulary in the service of storytelling, especially in Tolkien's LoTR, Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, and Mitchell's Cloud Atlas (the middle chapter). Kingsnorth joins those worthy authors and ranks right up there with them. The story is enticing as well, set in the post-apocalyptic wake (for the Anglo-Saxons) of the Norman Invasion and the consequent uprooting of ancient ways of life. The tale teller, Buccmaster of Holland, is a difficult protagonist to like, yet his story becomes gripping as more and more of his true nature is revealed. Is he truly inspired by visions, connected to the Old Gods? Or is he merely a cowardly paranoid schizophrenic? Or both?
I've read my fair share of historical fiction, but The Wake and its archaic language had me feeling much more like a time traveller than a reader.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Malcolm I. on August 2, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
A gripping story with a transfixing main character - it subverts our expectations and manages to be entertaining while doubling as a fascinating character study in Buccmaster. The pseudo-Old English is tough and there's a learning curve. But it's not a gimmick, it's a way to texture the tale and create a more vivid sense of time and place. While The Wake demands the reader's effort, it's well worth the reward.
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