In a remote English village economic progress disrupts the pastoral idyll
❖ Set in a rural village Harvest‘s pages open with the community harvesting their crops. They are joyous and spirited, sustained by their hard work for another season.
However at the feast that evening, the village’s master, Charles Kent advises news that unravels the pastoral idyll in the wake of economic progress – the land is to be repurposed for sheep and therefore wool production. This is a real piece of English history where sustenance farmers were dispossessed and displaced in favour of sheep farming many centuries ago.
As this announcement is made, three strangers wander in to the village, displaced from other lands. One lays claim to the land and intends to measure and prepare it for his use. The villagers are displeased and what eventuates is a series of violent events, everyone thinking their connection to the earth is most important. Though an ancient retelling, the theme of displacement from land is as relevant today as it ever was.
Walter Thirsk is the narrator of the book. Having been in the village for only 12 years, as opposed to a life time like most others, he is able to provide a viewpoint from someone invested in the village but also with an outsider’s perspective. He ponders and observes in a rich, thoughtful manner.
I am excused, I think, for wondering if I am the only one alive this afternoon with no other living soul who wants to cling to me, no other soul who’ll let me dampen her. The day has ended and the light has snuffed. I’m left to trudge into the final evening with nobody to loop their soaking hands through mine.
Suzy enjoyed the fact that Thirsk could be trusted to provide a grounded, realistic account of people and events, and did so in a voice that is both old-worldly but also contemporary.
Rachel praised the intelligent prose and acknowledged it as work of art, but said the book as a whole lacked a level of excitement for her.