At the time of writing, this is the bookie’s favourite for the Man Booker Prize 2013 by some considerable way.
It is a beautifully written book.Set in an English village during encroachment ,it follows the fortunes of the manor house and villagers seen through the eyes of Walter Thirsk, himself an outsider of sorts.
The arrival of 3 strangers , displaced from elsewhere, follows a mysterious fire at the manor house. The villagers, for their own reasons, are quick to lay the blame at the door of the strangers which sets off a chain of events leading to the eventual destruction of a way of life.
The prose is lyrical and Crace captures the claustophobic and suspicious atmosphere of a community that have never strayed more than a few hundred metres from their cottages.
Encroachment went on in the English country side from the 13th Century right up to the 19th and I found it impossible to place the narrative in any particular period. This however adds to the picture of a timeless way of life suddenly shattered and lost forever.
Personally, I would be surprised if this won the prize….the writing is truly beautiful but ‘ histotical fiction’ has won twice very recently with Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and it’s sequel Bring Up The Bodies and despite it’s beautiful prose Harvest is yet another reworking of British history…………but then, what do I know?