Tuesday, February 5, 2013


 by Jim Crace

A remote English village wakes on the morning after harvest, looking forward to enjoying a hard-earned day of rest and feasting. But two mysterious columns of smoke mar the sky, raising alarm and suspicion.

The first column of smoke comes from the edge of the village land, sent as a signal by newcomers to announce their presence as per regional custom. The second smoke column is even more troubling: it comes from a blaze set in Master Kent's stables. Walter Thirsk, a relative outsider in the village, casts his eye on three local boys and blames their careless tomfoolery. The rest of the villagers, though, close ranks against the strangers rather than accuse one of their own. Two men and a woman are apprehended; their heads are shaved to mark their criminality; and the men are thrown into the stocks for a week. Justice has been served. Or has it?

Meanwhile, another newcomer has been spotted in the village sporting the finer clothes and fashionable beard of a townsman. Mr. Quill, as the villagers name him, observes them closely and takes careful notes about their land, apparently at Master Kent's behest. It is his presence more than any other that will threaten the village's entire way of life.

In effortless, expertly crafted prose, Jim Crace details the unraveling of bucolic life in the face of economic progress. His tale is timeless and unsettling, evoking a richly textured world you will remember long after you finish reading. (cover image and synopsis from Netgalley).

My Thoughts

I had read about 20% of this book and I kept thinking - something is very different about the way this is written. It then occurred to me that there was hardly any dialogue. The story is told from the perspective of one main character and is mostly descriptive of what he sees going on.

Honestly, if someone has said - hey, would you like to read a book that is almost all narrative? I probably would have said - no! But, the author handled this so well that the book end up being quite enjoyable. There was suspense and a certain level of creepiness that made it very interesting.

Thank you to Nan A. Talese/Doubleday and Netgalley for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Publish date: February 5, 2013

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