The last book I read in 100 words: Harvest by Jim Crace

by Stephen Tall on December 22, 2013

Jim Crace-HarvestHarvest, Jim Crace

If you’ve ever wondered what the word ‘elegiac’ actually means, I think this book is the answer. It opens ominously: plumes of smoke warn of new arrivals in The Village (what need to give the place you are born, live and die in a name?). The villagers falsely blame them for a crime committed by one of their own, triggering a series of events that scar everyone.

If this were a movie, its tag-line would be ‘Seven days: one week that destroys a village and its people.’ That sounds dramatic, though Harvest, narrated by the all-seeing, clear-sighted Walter Thirsk (himself a newcomer-by-marriage), unfolds languidly, luxuriating in the grim reality its inhabitants’ bucolic C.18th lifestyle, and unwrapping their lives in gloriously lyrical prose.

You can read it as a simple morality tale. What God created in a week man can destroy through his rapacious greed. Yet that understates its nuance – how we all reap what we sow through our individual actions, big and small. This is the first Crace book I’ve read and, we’re told, it’s his final one: I loved it, so it certainly won’t be my last.