Harvest

Harvest

Book - 2013
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A stable fire in a remote English village leads to disputes between newcomers who are wrongly accused and long-term residents who refuse to believe one of their own could be responsible.
Publisher: New York : Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2013
Edition: 1st U.S. ed
ISBN: 9780385520775
0385520778
Branch Call Number: F CRACE-J
Characteristics: 208 pages : illustrations (frontispiece) ; 25 cm

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uncommonreader
Oct 05, 2015

An interesting picture of rural England at the moment of the enclosures. There are parallels to be seen between the medieval world on the point of great change and to-day, with similarly destructive results in both cases for nature.

DevilStateDan Aug 05, 2015

A timeless setting dealing with tribal behaviours & coping (or not) with changes in not only your own personal circumstance but the entire world at large. Scared humans are capable of much atrocity if they consider their world under threat, it seems.
Superbly written with the storyline gaining tempo in line with the perceived perils on the page. Highly recommended & one of the highlights in my
#2015ReadingChallenge
#ABookWithAOneWordTitle

FederalWayEdna Nov 05, 2014

Crace's writing style mimics college required (lit majors) 19th century English literature novels with the main character constantly reflecting on his own behavior, sometimes justifying, sometimes self-deprecating, and the weaknesses of the villagers (perhaps because they never finished the church) and, the naïve and lenient landowner who, without trial, locks up newcomers who he believes started a fire in his barn (couldn't be a known culprit) which starts a downward spiral of the pastoral life in this small, remote English village. Excellent writing.

a
abroomfi
May 21, 2014

Admittedly, Harvest is not an easy novel to read. It is deeply unsettling, and although it is a highly literary work (beautiful prose, a slow and careful cadence), it can also be a page-turner in the worst of ways: you dread what will come next, but you nonetheless are mesmerized and reluctant to put the book down.

There's so much one can say about the plot or literary style of the novel. My only contribution to the discussion is to suggest that Crace gives voice, and a lit match, to resentments, pains, and anxieties that the Industrial Revolution brought scores of humble village people, and that have had striking ramifications, as overlooked or unconsidered as they might be.

As difficult and as unfair as feudal English village life and the class hierarchy was, the rhythms of nature were largely unquestioned, and the routines were fixed, or seemed to be so. Common land allowed common people a place to raise their meat supply and milk and cheese supply. Their livelihoods of working for the lord of the manor net them a share in the precious grains and fruits that the lord brought in each year. The seasons gave the villagers' labor a sense of purpose and productivity, well as some time to rest when the winter was at its deepest. While some years harvests were sparse and people were hungry, in other years, harvests were plentiful and (if people labored hard), there was enough to eat.

The coming of agricultural reform, itself part of a long and painful Industrial Revolution, upended these rhythms, hierarchies of class, and unquestioned routines. Although there was unrest in the form of rick burning and other vandalism carried out by petrified agricultural laborers, the ultimatum for most was to submit to the changes brought about from elsewhere, particularly London and the new cities of the Industrial North with its Captains of Industry. Enclosure of land and clearing of brush ended many people's abilities to raise some of their own food. Laborers were no longer hired and housed year-round, so those who remained in agriculture often found themselves starving. The majority were forced, due to starvation, into mill towns to take jobs at new factories, where they lost what little autonomy that they had had as farmer laborers.

Crace, with the spectacular ending of his novel, thus gives credence to the smoldering, sorrowing, and lingering feelings of helplessness and worthlessness that thousands of rural Englanders would have felt from the mid-1700s into the late 1800s. In giving credence, Crace subtly suggests that this story of change, or "progress", is hardly a dead one. We live in a time of tremendous upheaval, where little if anything of the old ways and means of labor can be depended on. Our technological revolution thus ties us to a previous revolution that would have seemed long forgotten, but perhaps, Crace is suggesting, forgotten only at our peril.

b
bookwormjeph
Oct 28, 2013

I really enjoyed this book. Jim writes in a very descriptive and lyrical style that flows smoothly and pulls the reader along into the changing nature of the agricultural system due to the the change in farming practises e.g. from self sufficient manor type activity which supported a village, to sheep farming, which displaced thousands of workers and destroyed communities in rural England.

I wondered how thorough his research was as it also reads as excellent expose of what life was really like at that time in history.

JCLHopeH Aug 06, 2013

Crace does a nice job establishing the setting and people from the main character's point of view, but the story moved a little slow for my taste. It's a fairly quick read and is a nice addition to the historical fiction genre.

Cdnbookworm Feb 24, 2013

This novel is set at a remote village in England at some unspecified time in the pre-industrial age. It is a time when sheep are becoming a more prominent fixture on farming estates, and there is a movement of workers from rural to urban areas. A time of change.
In this remote estate, Walter Thirsk is a bit of a misfit. He came to the estate as a young man with his master as a result of his master's marriage. He married a local estate worker, and tried to fit in. Now he is aging, his own wife has died, as has his master's wife, and change is coming. This harvest season a man has come to the estate and is working on a chart of the land and its features. Master Kent asks Walter to assist this man, and Walter learns in confidence that the estate will be converted to sheep farming.
One morning the workers awake to two fires. One is the master's stable and dovecote, and the other the fire burned by newly arrived workers, a traditional sign of occupancy recognized as a right to stay. Even though signs point to some local men as being responsible for the stable fire, the blame is placed on the newcomers, and that act and its subsequent repercussions result in a drastic change in the lives of the workers, as much as the coming change to the farming itself.
Walter is both removed and a part of this settlement, and finds himself distanced and able to describe the course of events as both an outsider and as a vital part of the community.
A novel of change and choices.

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SlotFather
Jun 14, 2014

These are the stories that we tell ourselves and only ourselves, and they are better left unshared.

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