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Book Review: ‘Harvest’ by Jim Crace

HarvestAs an aspiring author and addicted reader, I always JUMP at the chance to read new books.  Reading, in my opinion, is not only a great frugal past time – I have shelves upon shelves of charity shop wonders – I love the knowledge and imagination that comes with reading a wide variety of books – so naturally I jumped at the chance to review ‘Harvest’ by Jim Crace, for the Mumsnet Bloggers Network.

Set in an unfamiliar time, Harvest is told over a 7 day period and charts the unravelling of a small English Hamlet through the eyes of protagonist Walter Thirsk.  Cue intrigue, accusations of witchcraft and a hunt to find the perpetrators of a devastating fire.

Having been unfamiliar with Crace’s work prior to reading ‘Harvest’, I was instantly drawn in by his poetic writing and attention to detail.  Each step of Walter’s journey is told in vivid colours and imagination, no stone is left unturned as we learn about the characters, relationships, heresay and deeds that make up what becomes a rich tapestry of story and a great slice of writing.  The story, though only stretching out over a short period of time, moves sporadically through visions and dreams, whilst flitting between past and present tense.  For me, as someone who toys about with writing in the present tense all the time, Harvest was a perfect example of this executed perfectly.  As the reader, you are thrown straight into the action alongside Walter in the most crucial plot points.  Equally, his bumbling narration is something of a relief when dealing with the atrocities and horrors suffered in the village.

At the time of writing this, I hadn’t quite finished reading ‘Harvest’.  Having been drawn in by the ‘whodunit’ plotline, eager to know more about the timeless village in which the story was set and learn more about the ghostly character of Mistress Beldame, the strange woman presumably at the centre of the strange goings-ons.  The sense of the overbearing paranormal puts an interesting spin on this otherwise historical novel, focusing on a community of people with no modern understanding of life, powerless to the mercy of nature.

Whilst I think the prose is unique, beautiful and intriguing, ‘Harvest’ certainly doesn’t read like a linear plot and the reader is often left gasping at the end of each chapter.  I expect many twists and turns before Walter’s fate and the fate of those around him is finally revealed.  It is, perhaps, not something I would normally pick up but I have been so pleasantly surprised with the unique way in which Crace handles his characters and I would recommend ‘Harvest’ to any fan of reading pure and beautiful prose.