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Thursday 8 May 2014

Review: Jim Crace, Harvest

Lebensraum for sheep - that was a major aim of England’s Enclosure movement which cleared the countryside of people and replaced them with wool-producers. The people ended up in towns and cities - forced draft urbanisation – and often enough, working with wool. Or else, drowning their sorrows in drink.

Jim Crace has imagined the arrival of Enclosure through the eyes of one man, Walter Thirsk, the first-person narrator of this 270 page novel. Positioned as someone ranking a bit above the ordinary peasantry but as much a helper than a servant to the old Master, Walter is not a hero, has many flaws and faults – but not any shortage of vocabulary.

Crace succeeds in filling his narrator with fine descriptive powers, a lucid ability to express his inner turmoil, well-turned phrases and, perhaps above all, a sense of pace.

As in other novels by Crace that I have read, the pacing is extraordinary. A tired reader will occasionally want the pace to quicken but Crace always takes his time and always uses it well. He has a story to tell and he wants you to attend to it. It’s not going to be complicated and he’s not going to try to mislead you or bamboozle you. He’s a story teller.

Like Quarantine and The Pesthouse, which I have also read, this is a very fine book.

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