Friday, February 1, 2013

Harvest by Jim Crace

What were the common people of medieval England doing while kings and lords and ministers were struggling for power and wealth? They were struggling for the basics of life, for food, shelter and clothing. On a sunny day in late autumn all the inhabitants of a remote village gather to harvest the barley crop. Life for these people is hard and precarious.  The work is difficult and the quality of the harvest will determine whether they will fatten or starve during the coming winter.  The unexpected arrival of several strangers is alarming but only one is actually dangerous. Master Jordan, a rich merchant, has recently inherited this land because his cousin, Mistress Kent, died without a male heir. Seeking greater profit than barley can bring, he announces his intention to put the people off the land and turn the grain fields into sheep meadows. Frightened by threats of torture and cruel punishments, the villagers flee to an unknown fate. Life as they know it is changing and there is little room for farmers in a land dedicated to producing wool. In seven days their world is destroyed. When Master Jordan and his entourage return to the city, Walter Thirsk, a widower with ties to the old master is left behind to care for the property. But two other strangers, who had been unfairly accused and punished for theft and vandalism they had not committed, take the opportunity presented by the deserted village to actually steal from and vandalize the manor house, the barns and the village huts. Progress and profit have led to the destruction of an orderly society.

Harvest will be published on February 12, 2012.  The library received its review copy from the publisher.  If you would like to read this book, you can place a hold on it in CountyCat, and you will be notified when it is ready for check out!