Harvest by Jim Crace

Harvest

Centuries ago in an unspecified rural location, a small village of farmers spot a mysterious cloud of smoke coming from the outskirts of their land.  This occurrence might not seem extraordinary, and certainly not any cause for alarm, but to the villagers it signifies a change in the air.  It means that outsiders are nearby, perhaps watching them.  Are the owners of this smoke cloud friend or foe?  No one can be sure at first, but when the village master’s dovecote is destroyed by a fire, the fearful community turns to the mysterious smoke cloud for answers.  As they soon learn, the fire belongs to a small family – The Beldams – that has set up camp near the village, and though they may look harmless enough, someone must pay for the crime that has been committed.

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TransAtlantic by Colum McCann

TransAtlantic

Shut out the lights on the world below

The past, as they say, is most often written by those who are victorious.  At first blush, by fictionalizing a number of historically consequential voices and weaving them into his narrative, National Book Award winning author Colum McCann (Let the Great World Spin) appears to buying into the this notion with much verve.  However the further that his Man Booker Prize longlisted novel TransAtlantic progresses, the more clear it becomes that McCann is only interested in these prominent figures as a set of high profile glue sticks whose value lies in their ability to help paste together a much more ambitious, socially conscious narrative detailing the plight of Northern Ireland and the unheard voices of the common folk who endured throughout these turbulent years.  The resulting story is extremely poignant at times, yet woefully stodgy at others.

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