Harvest by Jim Crace. http://www.jim-crace.com/
got this book (from my local library, blessings be upon the remains of
that fine service!) because the review promised a vivid depiction of
life in a poor village on the cusp of the Enclosures. In the early
modern era, fields which had been granted in common under ancient rights
to graze were stolen by the wealthy to farm sheep, and this background
runs under everything happening in this novel.
This will no doubt
sound familiar to the modern reader, but Harvest is not an overtly
political tale. The protagonist Walter tells of the final seven days in
the life of the village. Starting with a mushroom-intoxicated prank that
goes wrong, and the arrival of three strangers who raise a rough
dwelling and light a fire before dawn, thereby making use of ancient
squatters' rights, we see the social fabric of the village come apart.
writing is excellent in the way it shows the tensions between the law
and the feelings of the villagers. And the sheer richness of the sensory
environment has been called, with good reason, hallucinatory. The
details are astonishing to a modern person; have you any idea how the
design of a plough works, or how it feels to use one? I didn't either.
Highly recommended for those who want to know what life used to be like. Who want to know a lost and vanished world.