A Novel by Jim Crace
2013 / 224 pages
Jim Crace’s Harvest has the best odds of winning the 2013 Man Booker according to The Daily Beast, the online home of Newsweek Magazine. Thus, I chose Harvest as my third long listed book to read. The book is a first person narrative from the point of view of the widower and former man servant, Walter Thrask. Walter is a villager who tells the story of all things that have gone wrong in his village the week after the year’s harvest. The time and location of the book are unknown, but I figure it takes place in the English countryside sometime in the 1800s. The writing itself is in a nice descriptive tone. The plot is intriguing. The way Crace brings it all together will bore you to tears! Make sure you have a bottle of 5 hour energy handy for this snooze fest.
Take the way the book starts. There has been a fire in one of Master Kent’s barns. Walter is pretty certain he knows what has happened. Our narrator, Thrask opines:
Here’s what took place. This is my reckoning, calculated without recourse to any constable or magistrate – and just as well, because this place is too far off from towns to number such judicious creatures among our livestock; we were too small, and getting smaller…
This could have just as easily read:
Here’s what took place.
Period! He goes on to ramble for 5 more pages before giving us the “event” that actually took place.
Instead of making a long story short, Crace makes a short story long! This book reads like a twenty-first century blog account of someone’s moment of excitement in an otherwise hum drum week. There were glimpses of a very interesting story peppered into the mundane ramblings of an outsider who is using his blog to voice his feelings of never being accepted into the village in which he had lived over 12 years. The plot line was really good and eerie. I could not figure out how the book would unfold; however, about the time I would get interested in the plot line, I would have to skim through tedious detail as to why the village had a churchyard but no church or the details of plowing the field to plant wheat. Sometimes, I just wanted to know what was going to happen in the story. Things would start to get interesting and then I would wake up an realize that I had been dozing instead of reading – again.
Crace even writes with some great humor, including some 19th Century bathroom humor in the explanation of the “Turd and Turf”. He writes a plot line with the eeriness of M. Night Shyamalan movie. However, to get to the humor and to the plot one has to wade into the ramblings of a guy with few friends who realizes he is an outsider, he is lonely, he is a coward and the list of ramblings goes on and on.
Once again, I question the motives behind the judges choosing Harvest for the long list. Crace has announced that Harvest will be his last book. With only one other appearance on the long list in 1997, are they giving Crace a shot at the prize just because he has never made it to the short list? There is a good story hidden in the tedium, but for a Booker winner, I expect more.