It sometimes happens that I desperately want to read a book, but I don’t have the faintest clue about what I want to read.
Where do you find books , which are sure to be good? My answer to this question is : the novels long- or shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
No matter which year, you are sure to find a pool of excellent books on that list. This is how I stumbled upon ‘Harvest’ at some point last year.
I didn’t necessarily like this book from the very beginning, but what kept me hooked was the fact that the author managed to recreate a very authentic isolated medieval village. From the owner of the manor to the humblest peasant, there is nothing romanticised in Jim Crace’s vision. I couldn’t but respect such display of skill.
With the arrival of the strangers during the last day of harvest, the mysterious woman and two men, the events take an even more peculiar twist. What shocks the most is the villagers’ narrow-mindedness and the unanimous feeling of rejection towards the strangers. A confrontation between them and the intruders ensue. The intervention of Master Kent, the local lord, solves the conflict. He ( unrighteously , may I add) punishes the new-comers . At this point, I felt at same time irked and intrigued.
When Edmund Jordan , the de facto heir of the estates , enters the scene , you have the feeling that a boulder has begun to roll down a very steep mountain and that, when it’s going to reach the bottom, there’s going to be a loud crash. His apparition is superimposed to the death of one of the three strangers, and his inhuman reaction towards the whole affair is quite fiendish. Sure enough, in only a few days he manages to perturb the seemingly ancient and immovable ways of the village, until…. But I’ll allow you to discover for yourselves what happens.
What I can tell you , is that it all comes together , in the end. Yes, with a big crash.
As troubling as it is, the outcome is very believable, and it’s something which can happen even in today’s world, perhaps in a less democratic country . When provided with sufficient motivation, the means and the power, human nature does create monsters. Charity and caring for the well-being of others , when this contradicts somehow our own interest, are something foreign to us, the author seems to tell us.
All in all, it was an impressive book . Although I struggled with it at times, it was definitely worth reading.