Sentence: Two twists of smoke at a time of year too warm
for cottage fires surprise us at first light, or they at least
surprise those of us who’ve not been up to mischief
in the dark.
is coming and events collide which will change life forever.
Three strangers have built a hut and hearth to let the residents
of a small, framing village know they are there. This act
of smoke from a first fire gives them the right to stay there.
The second event is the burning of Master Kent’s dovecote,
hayloft and stables. The third event is the arrival of Edmund
Jordan and his men. Jordan is cousin to Kent’s late
wife. As the land came from her and there were no children,
it now legally belongs to Jordan.
be frustrating to read a book in which neither the setting
nor the time period are undefined. Crace does, however, drop
enough hints that one might surmise the setting is England
and the time probably in the 1500s/1600s, although it could
be a bit later. The story is almost all narrative, which readers
can find very boring. However, the book is fascinating and
the story compelling.
provided with wonderful descriptions and rich language suitable
to the time. “Our great task each and every year is
to defend ourselves against hunger and defeat with implements
and tools. The clamor deafens us. But that is how we have
to live our lives.” Even the meaning of words which
are arcane are easy enough to understand, and it does add
veracity to the narrator.
has written the story on many levels. He describes life in
an agrarian setting and struggle to survive. We learn of the
coming transition from crops to sheep and the impact that
will have on the villagers. But we also see the dreadful results
foolish actions can bring, not only to the perpetrators but
to the entire village.
Thirsk brings life to the story as we are told it through
his eyes. We learn both his history and that of the villagers.
Through his telling, it becomes a very human story; one that
has increasing dread. You sense the fear and uncertainty of
the villagers, and of Walter. And yet, in the end, it is a
story of survival and perseverance.
isn’t a long read, but it is an impactful one.
It is also an allegory as to how those in authority can use
rumors to raise suspicion and mistrust in order to achieve
their own ends.
I’m seeing Privilege, in its high hat. Then comes Suffering:
The Guilty and the innocent, including beasts. Then Malice
follows, wielding its great stick. And, afterward, invisibly,
Despair is riding its lame horse.” Lest you think it
is a depressing book, it is not. It is compelling and one
I found I couldn’t put down.