Come and chat to award-winning author Jim Crace about Booker-shortlisted HARVEST and his previous novels, date tbc

(65 Posts)

Award-winning novelist Jim Crace announced last year that his latest book, HARVEST, would also be his last. And it is all about a way of life that has been lost forever. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2013, HARVEST is a bewitching, semi-mythological tale set in a landscape that is never named, but appears to be rural England at the time of the Enclosures. Traditional relationships between man and nature, and the relationships within the feudal village, are coming to an end. The arrival of three strangers (and the subsequent fire at the manor house on the same night) leads to suspicion, violence and fear.

The sparse yet lyrical prose has a unique style– as Boyd Tonkin put it: 'Inimitably excellent, Jim Crace stands on his own ground among living English novelists'. Tightly structured and meticulously written, HARVEST is an outstanding finale to a truly brilliant career.

For more detail on Jim Crace’s fiction, short stories, radio plays and journalism, go to his extensive website – you’ll also find Jim’s Books of the Year 2013 recommendations.

Macmillan have 50 copies to give to Mumsnetters – to claim yours go to the book of the month page. We’ll post on the thread when all the copies have gone. If you’re not lucky enough to bag one of the free books, you can always get your paperback or Kindle version here.

We are thrilled that Jim will be joining us and answering questions about HARVEST, his writing career and all his previous novels and will let you know when we have confirmed a webchat date (most likely the first week in April). ??So please feel free to discuss the book here throughout the month, pop up any advance questions and we will see you all here in April.

AliceMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 24-Feb-14 10:32:25

The giveaway for Harvest is now closed. We will notify those who have been selected to receive a free copy of the book via email. If you haven't received a free copy, feel free to buy the book, let us know your thoughts and post a question to author Jim Crace.

DuchessofMalfi Tue 25-Feb-14 14:29:33

I bought this a while ago. Hope to read and join in with this discussion. Is there a date set yet?

alialiath Fri 28-Feb-14 18:23:33

Thanks, I received a copy of Harvest in the post today. I'm going to finish reading the book I'm presently reading ( hopefully by tomorrow ) before starting Harvest, which I can't wait to start as it looks interesting.

alialiath Tue 04-Mar-14 21:00:14

Like harvest time, the book Harvest is not to be rushed, and I'm enjoying this beautifully written story.
My only gripe is that the vivid yellow and orange cover has got my cats into a frenzy, and every time I pick the book up my two cats are playing a tug of war with me to claim the book. ( at least I think it's the colours, but maybe they want to learn to read as they know they're missing out on something special )

cavylover Thu 06-Mar-14 14:33:02

Extremely descriptive book set in medieval times in a remote village in a changing era. Found it a bit plodding in places and rather gruesome and not a personal favourite of mine although I am probably in the minority.

FernieB Sat 08-Mar-14 07:48:24

It is a well written, beautifully described book. I felt as though I could see the landscape and picture the characters as the author has portrayed them so well. Sadly it's just not for me and I struggled to get into this book. I managed to finish it but can't say I enjoyed it. I think that is down to me and not the author. I shall pass it on as I know a few friends who will enjoy it.

hackmum Sat 08-Mar-14 12:51:04

I really loved this book. I hadn't read any Jim Crace before so I didn't know what to expect. I thought it was beautifully written and incredibly powerful.

I'm sure Jim won't answer this, but I'd love to know roughly when it's supposed to be set - the critics were all at sea on this!

I was also very interested in (and horrified by) the description of the pillory. From the description in the book it sounded more as if the men were being crucified than put in a pillory. Is that right, or have I misunderstood?

weirdthing Sat 08-Mar-14 16:04:41

I read this as part of a pack of Booker Prize shortlisters that I got quite cheaply from the Book People site. It was the best of the bunch! A really excellent book and my husband agreed that it was virtually un-put-downable. We will certainly be seeking out more of Jim Crace's books soon.

barricade Sun 09-Mar-14 14:39:07

Sincere thanks for sending me the book 'HARVEST', by Jim Crace.
I opened the book in real anticipation, but sought to quell any unfair expectation I may have held. This was the first book that I had read by the author. It became immediately apparent that he is a talented writer. The prose was rich and imaginative, and the themes presented were brought to life with meticulously detailed descriptive language.
However, after a slow, but promising build-up, the narrative then dragged on tediously over the next 10 chapters, with only isolated incidents of note, and any hints of mystery rapidly dissipating as the ending became increasingly predictable. The tale plodded on to a disappointing conclusion.
After ending the book, it became obvious that it was never intended to be a suspenseful, edge-of-your-seat thriller. Unfortunately, I could not help feel the hours taken to read the book were wasted ones.

FULL REVIEW HAS BEEN UPLOADED.

CloserLook Sun 09-Mar-14 15:18:43

Just finished this book last night.

I will admit it took me a couple of tries to get into this book but once I stuck with it I found it difficult to put down. The descriptions of bringing the harvest in and the idylllic community of the villiage at the beginning were very well written. It meant as the plot developed and the community disintegrated for various reasons there was a sense of loss such as the subtle disruption of their harvest party by the mysterious woman.

I admit the plot was a little thin and parts of the story never really went anywhere but it didn't spoil my enjoyment of reading it. I enjoyed the steady pace and although I was hoping for more of a conclusion at the end of the book I'm not sure what ending would have been satisfying so maybe it was best left as it was.

I will be trying some more of the author's books as I did enjoy his writing style.

hackmum Mon 10-Mar-14 09:22:00

Another question.

At times the book feels like a dark moral fable, but it also deals with a real historical event - the enclosures. It really conveys the extent to which ordinary people were at the mercy of the whims of individual landowners. I wondered what had drawn you to that subject, what historical reading you'd done and whether there are any books you'd recommend to others?

sparkysparkysparky Mon 10-Mar-14 12:03:06

Question for Jim: I was struck by the absence of the Church (capital C). Did your research reassure you that you could keep its direct influence on land and people out of the narrative? Did you consider having clerical power in the story ?

RAZDAZ Mon 10-Mar-14 13:51:45

Just finished this book. It was a little hard to get into and although once the story got going, I didn't really feel there was any substance in it. It seemed to flit from person to person without any real story or conclusion in the end. Sadly not for me.

Babelange Sat 15-Mar-14 21:46:49

This is the first book by Jim Crace I have read; what a tremendous read it is! But perhaps I missed this book because of the lurid book cover and the Stephen King-esque title.

Unfortunately, many of the reviews here or elsewhere will contain plot spoilers and I would recommend that anyone reads it without finding out too much about the story - you need to read it in all its appalling ‘real-time’ tragedy. It is not an easy read at all – another reviewer commented on the similarities in tension between Crace’s book and Cormac Mccarthy’s book ‘The Road’ which I felt too.

What struck me too was the pervasive sense of loss – Walter is widowed and the absence of the master’s wife, Lucy Kent (who is also dead long before the novel takes place), is palpable. Her death, although relatively distant in time, becomes a catalyst for the events which unfold. So rather than being a novel with the central motif of abundance and bounty as the title would suggest; it is really about loss, barrenness and a terrible crime (or strictly speaking a series of crimes).

My questions for Jim are;
If you could be truly objective about your work, which one of your novels pleased you the most and if readers enjoyed this book, which would you recommend they read next? (I fancy ‘Quarantine’).

Did you set out to debunk ‘romantic’ notions of the countryside or was it the social injustice during this period which interested you the most?

Finally; are you a town or country mouse?

SG1976 Mon 17-Mar-14 21:05:50

If the recipe read: take a large pinch of Thomas Hardy, add another of Richard Adams (he of Watership Down fame), add bags of originality and then a touch of spice, bring to the boil and then reduce to a readable circa 250 pages, then what you have is Harvest by Jim Crace. Its a wonderful and gripping story written in a bygone time in the English country. You simply will find it near impossible to find a modern book so well written, yet easy to read. Jim Crace, if you're reading this, please do not stop writing novels. You're not just "one of the great writers of our time" (- Colum McCann, author of Let The Great World Spin), you're actually one of the great writers of any time.

SG1976 Mon 17-Mar-14 21:55:17

"But perhaps I missed this book because of the lurid book cover and the Stephen King-esque title. " - totally agree with you there Babelange. Picador - what were you thinking?!

pennwood Wed 19-Mar-14 20:18:54

I was at page 24 before I actually got into the book, & it took perseverance. It was quite dark in parts, and I did not enjoy it overall. I was expecting more of a conclusion to the book as well.

MadamBatShit Mon 24-Mar-14 10:42:57

No question yet, but maybe later..
I loved this book, it was the best I read last year. Amazing.

I read the Pesthouse after this and wasn't as impressed with that one (sweet earwax? really?) but will read others.

MrsRedWhite214 Tue 25-Mar-14 22:52:57

I loved the way I could really get into the setting of the book. The writing gave me a vivid picture of the fields, trees, and main house without boring me with details. Some would complain at the lack of secondary character development, but I found the story from Walters point of view only worked well to keep the story consistent and uncomplicated. The story is set within specific geographical limits, which again worked well. The reader is never fully clear about how well developed other towns and villages really were. I was really taken in by the simplicity of the setting and the story which hinted at much more complex themes without being dragged down by them.

ProfYaffle Mon 31-Mar-14 18:41:23

I've just finished reading this and adored it. Such an easy, languid story that slips by so smoothly it comes as a shock to realise how catastrophic the unfolding events are, for this community and many more all over England.

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 31-Mar-14 21:32:58

Thanks so much to those who have posted their thoughts and questions to Jim so far. A reminder that he will be joining us TOMORROW (Tuesday) evening between 9 and 10pm to answer your questions about Harvest and his other novels, so please do log on and join him. Everyone who joins the chat will be entered into a draw to win the next THREE bookclub books. Look forward to seeing you again tomorrow.

I wouldn't normally choose to read this type of book - not so keen on overly literary books - and although I definitely prefer a faster-paced read, this was beautiful to read. Crace's prose is sublime. I'm glad I was nudged out of my comfort zone by the bookclub!

brendarenda Tue 01-Apr-14 09:19:09

What a great book! I thoroughly enjoyed it. At one point I started trying to read it as a sort of cross between the Garden of Eden, and the crucifixion. I was especially intrigued by the woman outsider as a kind of Eve/Mary. But the characters and the plot were so compelling that I soon forgot about all that, and just enjoyed the rest of the book without trying to shoehorn it into anything else.
I'd be really interested to hear Jim's thoughts on religion (and ritual more generally) in the book and - as someone else has said - the lack of Church.

MadamBatShit Tue 01-Apr-14 10:29:18

Out of my time-zone I'm afraid (I'll be sleeping then).
I hope you all have a great time with it though, have fun!

katiebasey Tue 01-Apr-14 11:51:15

I read the book and really enjoyed it, my mum couldnt quite get into it... strange how people differ. My question to you is how do you get the ideas for each book...

Eirwen Tue 01-Apr-14 11:57:31

Feeling really cross that I haven't had a chance to begin reading this yet. It looks really interesting and I'm looking forward to it. Hoping to pop in for the Chat later.

katiebasey Tue 01-Apr-14 11:58:11

I really enjoyed the book, not normally my type of read..just goes to show... My question to you is how do you get your ideas for writing each book.. do they suddenly come to you in a flash.. Would love to write a book about my husbands grandparents... they led such a good life, his grandad being one of 18 children , most of the boys being miners ,living in Cumbria... photo enclosed...

DuchessofMalfi Tue 01-Apr-14 14:06:10

I finished reading it a couple of days ago, and am still thinking about it. It made me think about the nature and fragility of life - how we live and die. And that's just added a depressing note to the thread. Sorry ... smile

Hackmum also raised the question of the time period in which the story is set. All the way through I saw it as medieval or Tudor, but then again the clearances made that ambiguous. Confused, but didn't detract from the story. It is how we, the reader, see it I suppose.

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 01-Apr-14 15:56:36

We're looking forward to the webchat this evening with Jim Crace who will be answering your questions between 9 and 10pm.

Last month 10 bloggers were given the chance to review the book - click here to read their thoughts on Harvest.

Angeleno Tue 01-Apr-14 16:15:57

Hi Jim,

I read Harvest last autumn and was struck by how beautifully timeless the story is. As far as I can recall, you hadn't at any point mentioned in which period of history the story is set: friends who had read the book had variously read it to be the Victorian era, the Medieval period, and in my case, I read it to be the Jacobean era. I can see this echoed above actually, not many seem to be sure!

Strangely, your writing is so rich and descriptive that imagining the scenes as they take place is easy, yet the historical period is fuzzy. It almost reads as a fable in that way, as a moral lesson that could happen at any time. I wondered whether this was a purposeful choice, and if so, what your reasoning was for that?

Or perhaps I was reading too quickly and missed when the historical period was mentioned grin

ProfYaffle Tue 01-Apr-14 16:33:58

My question would be; I imagine you had to do a lot of historical research. How do you weave the facts into the story without being too 'teachery' about it?

CloserLook Tue 01-Apr-14 17:03:07

I really enjoyed the atmosphere of this book and the vivid descriptions (my full review is upthread). My first question is do any of your other books have the same feel and which would you recommend I read first?

My second question is did you worry about historical accuracy and do a great deal of research when you were writing the book or did that just come naturally?

JacqueslePeacock Tue 01-Apr-14 17:16:24

I have never read a Jim Crace book that I didn't absolutely love, and Harvest is no exception. I have recommended it to everyone I know! I am devastated to think that this might be your last book though. Please say you will reconsider! I would have eked the earlier ones out more had I known.

What struck me most about Harvest is the brilliant agelessness of the writing. It felt historical, appropriately of the period, but never forced or jarring - and it never got in the way of enjoying the story and characters. Could you say something about you achieved the right balance?

maryburrows Tue 01-Apr-14 17:54:41

I enjoyed this book as the characters were thoughtfully portrayed and it seemed an interesting account of the dangers of change and misunderstanding in a small community that could be any time and any place as the context was left so vague. I do agree however that the plot was a bit thin for those of us use to the usual blockbuster thriller action packed style of writing- more for fans of Dickens. I would like to know where you got your ideas for the book and if you are really as negative about progress as your tale suggests. Sorry I can't take part in the live debate-would have loved to but the library for wifi closes at 7pm-good luck with your future writing-I definitely intend to read some more of your work.

JimCrace Tue 01-Apr-14 19:09:28

Good evening, readers and mums. Just to give you some context, I'm a recent grandpa. Our youngest, Lauren, who some of you may know from her acting roles in East Enders, Silk, Mr Selfridge, Sherlock, etc, has a 16 month old son called Jack. So, given the demands of the acting life, we're doing a lot of baby sitting / child caring these days. So when I discuss whether or not I will write another novel in the future, you should bear in mind that my time's not my own at the moment.

But it is true that some while ago I said I did not intend to write another novel. That's because despite my age I still felt that my wife and I had plenty of other adventures to enjoy and plenty of other encounters to experience before the inevitable Dozing Days ahead. Sitting in front of a word processor all day isn't much of an adventure.

However, I might have spoken too soon, because just this month another idea for a further novel is nagging at me. Subject matter? Poverty, tourism and love. I can hardly resist it. Maybe I haven't retired after all.

JimCrace Tue 01-Apr-14 19:12:13

Mary Burrows asks if I am negative about progress. Not in the least. I'm even-handed about progress. What's that saying? "Everything new worth having is paid for by the loss of something old worth keeping." That's my position, I think. Some things get worse, some get better, but mostly there is simply Change.

JimCrace Tue 01-Apr-14 19:23:28

JacqueslePeacock has asked me to say something about achieving "the right balance" between an ageless note in the narration and something which sounds authentically historical. Well, it's complicated, of course, and most of these detailed style decisions are as intuitive as when we're simply chatting to friends yet making all the right decisions about our tone and manner. But it's also a simple trick of vocabulary. If my narrator, Walter, avoids long, latinate words, for example, but has a rich choice of rural vocabulary, then the reader will see him as a countryman and not a clergyman. It's just a matter of raiding your thesaurus eighty thousand times in order to make the right and appropriate word choice. For Harvest, to tell you the truth, it was Shakespeare's vocabulary that I raided the most. I also borrowed his way of inventing new words by minting a fresh verb out of an existing noun.

JimCrace Tue 01-Apr-14 19:29:04

This is for CloserLook. (I really enjoy these name tags.) I don't really do any research because I prefer to wonder and then makes things up. In that respect, Harvest is hardly an historical novel. You shouldn't trust a word of it. It's not intended to accurately mirror the History of Enclosures but more to shed some light on the ancient and continuing ways of human kind. Medieval farmers lost their land to sheep, but that sort of loss continues today: woodsmen today are losing their timber lands to palm oil entrepreneurs in Borneo this very day; homelands in Brazil are going under the plough owned by global soya barons; land speculators are turning peasants off their farms in India in order to exploit the recent rise in food prizes. Well, I'll get off my soap box - but you see what I mean. Harvest is not about History but about Now.

JimCrace Tue 01-Apr-14 19:35:48

I kept it fuzzy on purpose, Ageleno (and anyone else who asked this question). If I had set the book in a named placed at a specified time then -as an ex-journalist- I would have felt obliged to get the facts right. If you say its near Evesham in 1687, for example, then it will have to look, smell, taste and sound like Evesham 1687. I wanted a free hand and I wanted to take liberties. I know that infuriates some readers but you can't pay attention to future readers when you are writing a long novel. All you can think about is the narrative itself.

JimCrace Tue 01-Apr-14 19:38:51

I'm not sure that I'm adding to this thread in quite the right way or employing the proper protocols. But I'm going to try to answer every question before my time is up. However, I'm now nipping downstairs for my last coffee of the day. My answers will become caffeine-fuelled.

ProfYaffle Tue 01-Apr-14 19:52:29

I loved the fact that it wasn't tied to a particular place or year. As you say, it makes it more about the issues rather than the accuracy.

MadamBatShit Tue 01-Apr-14 19:55:48

Ah, you are here already! Glad to see that you may not have retired after all as I would be interested in reading more. We'll see..

I am pleased to read your first answers.. I was wondering about the time of Harvest but saw it as a parabel for modern times as much as something historical, like about the clearances.

The same sort of thinking applies to the Pesthouse? Would you call these soapbox thought running themes in your work?

I am looking forward to reading Quarantaine, haven't done that yet.
How does the life of Christ fit in these thoughts about poverty and destiny? What would be the right word.. not destiny.. fate?

frogletsmum Tue 01-Apr-14 20:22:28

Jim, this is the first of your books that I've read, and I absolutely loved it for the atmosphere and the sheer beauty of the writing, as well your portrayal of a community and a way of life that's so different to ours today. But I really wanted to ask you about the ending, which feels very open. Most of the characters survive and move on and I had so many questions about them - does Walter find Kitty Gosse again, what happens to the villagers, is Master Kent really colluding with Master Jordan, and so on! Do you prefer to leave the endings of your novels open so that your readers can make up their own conclusions, and would you ever be tempted to go back and write about these characters again?
Thank you for a wonderful novel, and I hope that idea keeps nagging at you until you write a new one!

JimCrace Tue 01-Apr-14 20:31:44

I'm back, full of coffee - and I've sneaked in half of the episode which we recorded of last night's final Silk. I'm a Martha Costello fan. Her attraction is her cleverness and her courage and her fighting spirit, not just her looks. Good looks help, of course, but don't count for much after five minutes. That's why my female characters are usually overweight or underweight or shaven bald or unusually hefty. I want them to be judged by standards other than those dished up by Hollywood. They make good companions, too. for me in my study when I am writing the novels.

There are some regular soapbox themes running through my work, Madam BatShit. I think that's the political puritan in me. Writing books without a message would feel like a selfish indulgence, so I can't stop myself coming over all preacherly. Basically I'm a Bleeding-Heart Socialist with an optimistic view of humankind but I don't much value the kind of optimism found in trouble-free lives. The optimism that counts is the sort that has been through the mill, the has been dragged through the darkest of places, yet still feels bright about the world.

JimCrace Tue 01-Apr-14 20:36:09

Frogletsmum is being very kind. And she seems to be suggesting a sequel to Harvest. I must say the thought has crossed my mind. But then all my novels seem to end on an open note, requiring the reader to wonder what happens next. I don't like to tie all the knots. I like the narrative to open out rather than close. It's my way of giving the books an afterlife - and giving the readers a part to play too.

JimCrace Tue 01-Apr-14 20:43:11

I'm popping down to the end of the thread to try and answer some of the earlier comments.

I was interested that alialiath found the cover design and colour a bit rich, along with several other readers and her cat! But I have to say the cover has worked in my favour in the bookshops. readers who go into a store or visit Amazon with a particular title already in mind don't really care about the cover. But the impulse buyers do. What you want is a cover design that makes the casual browser pick the book up and turn the first few pages. It may be more dignified to have discreet, understated covers but they don't "shift units", to use the trade jargon. A good come-on title helps, too. One of the foreign editions of my baldy titled novel Being Dead retitled the book (quite accurately) Love on the Beach. It sold bucket-loads. (That's all anyone needs to know about the publishing industry.)

JimCrace Tue 01-Apr-14 20:49:52

No, you're not in the minority, cavylover. Most people don't like my odd novels. Many readers find them too unembarrassedly serious, too rhythmic in style, too preacherly and moralistic, and not short enough. I understand. I don't mind. We all have different appetites and tastes. I have a small pool of fans - but I have been fortunate in having a small pool of fans in many countries, especially the States. So my career has only been a success because I have a loyal group of niche readers who want to buy and read anything I write. If I wanted a huge readership and a large fortune, I'd write different books with a wider appeal.

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 01-Apr-14 20:51:02

Great to see Jim has joined us already! Welcome Jim - and congratulations on recently becoming a grandpa and how wonderful to hear you take your grandfatherly duties so seriously - If you're forced to nip off on babysitting duties at any time during the hour we do understand.

Congratulations also on a wonderful novel. So many mumsnetters have said that it isn't a novel they would normally have picked up but were startled by the beautiful prose and haunting, gripping storyline. We couldn't be more pleased to hear this may not be your last novel after all.

Can I put to you our two standard questions we ask all bookclub authors:

Which childhood book most inspired you?

What would be the first piece of advice you would give anyone attempting to write fiction?

I'll leave you know to continue answering the questions.

JimCrace Tue 01-Apr-14 20:57:42

hackmum

I really loved this book. I hadn't read any Jim Crace before so I didn't know what to expect. I thought it was beautifully written and incredibly powerful.

I'm sure Jim won't answer this, but I'd love to know roughly when it's supposed to be set - the critics were all at sea on this!

I was also very interested in (and horrified by) the description of the pillory. From the description in the book it sounded more as if the men were being crucified than put in a pillory. Is that right, or have I misunderstood?

I will answer your question, hackmum, though the answer will be a bit vague and pretentious. If I was cornered and threatened with a beating unless I revealed when and where Harvest was set, I'd say Shakespeare's Forest of Arden in the late Tudor period. You may remember that the forest shows up in many of Shakespeare's plays. It was familiar to his Warwickshire boyhood (just down the road from where I now live) but WS lets it stand for ancient Rome and Greece and the fantastic world of A Midsummer Night's Dream. It's a real place, real enough to appear on maps, but it's also a dreamscape.

JimCrace Tue 01-Apr-14 21:08:25

RachelMumsnet

Great to see Jim has joined us already! Welcome Jim - and congratulations on recently becoming a grandpa and how wonderful to hear you take your grandfatherly duties so seriously - If you're forced to nip off on babysitting duties at any time during the hour we do understand.

Congratulations also on a wonderful novel. So many mumsnetters have said that it isn't a novel they would normally have picked up but were startled by the beautiful prose and haunting, gripping storyline. We couldn't be more pleased to hear this may not be your last novel after all.

Can I put to you our two standard questions we ask all bookclub authors:

Which childhood book most inspired you?

What would be the first piece of advice you would give anyone attempting to write fiction?

I'll leave you know to continue answering the questions.

Thanks for the invitation to join you all this evening. I'm loving being a grandpa, of course, though I'm surprised how tiring a day of child care can be. Was it is this tiring when I had toddlers of my own? Part of our especial problem is that our cottage has a well, a cellar, low beams and many many steps within the house. It's a home more designed for classic British horror movies than child care.

The childhood book that most inspired me was Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. I still love it, especially those parts where Robinson swims back to the wreck to salvage tools and provisions for his years of isolation.

My advice to fiction writers? Three things. Be ambitious (Readers prefer blemished work that takes risks to perfect works that set their sights low); be incautious at first and prepared to write badly (then you can make corrections and improvements at your leisure); don't imagine that reading makes you an interesting writer - what you need is a big subject matter not a huge library. Oh yes, and keep your manuscript to yourself until it's finished. Your friends, your husbands and your cousins will lie to you, and their opinions don't count anyway.

JimCrace Tue 01-Apr-14 21:15:36

katiebasey

I really enjoyed the book, not normally my type of read..just goes to show... My question to you is how do you get your ideas for writing each book.. do they suddenly come to you in a flash.. Would love to write a book about my husbands grandparents... they led such a good life, his grandad being one of 18 children , most of the boys being miners ,living in Cumbria... photo enclosed...

Go for it, Katie. If you think you have a novel in you, don't be one of those people who never start writing it, or start writing it but fail to finish it, or finish it but fail to send it off. And don't worry about where your ideas will come from. Narrative is ancient and it is wise and it is generous. Just sit down and start writing and you will be surprised what starts to appear on your page, almost as if your imagination has been hijacked by an outsider. It's a thrilling experience. Having that black and white photograph in your hands will also prove to be a rich source of inspiration. Look at the inconsequential detail in the photograph as well as the faces and see what springs to mind.

Justwokenup Tue 01-Apr-14 21:23:04

Hi Jim, I'm new to Mumsnet bookclub but was lucky enough to win a copy of your book this month. Like others I hadn't read any of your previous books and wasn't sure what to expect but I was transfixed. The vivid descriptions have stayed with me for a long time. Like many others I was interested in the ambiguity of the setting and particularly the era and language which feels antiquated yet modern at the same time. I'm interested to hear you suggest shakespearean times as I'd envisaged the setting to be later -maybe because of references to the plague. Do you consider yourself to be a historical writer? And do you read much historical fiction/non-fiction? What are your thoughts on Hilary Mantel?

JimCrace Tue 01-Apr-14 21:24:40

Babelange

This is the first book by Jim Crace I have read; what a tremendous read it is! But perhaps I missed this book because of the lurid book cover and the Stephen King-esque title.

Unfortunately, many of the reviews here or elsewhere will contain plot spoilers and I would recommend that anyone reads it without finding out too much about the story - you need to read it in all its appalling ?real-time? tragedy. It is not an easy read at all ? another reviewer commented on the similarities in tension between Crace?s book and Cormac Mccarthy?s book ?The Road? which I felt too.

What struck me too was the pervasive sense of loss ? Walter is widowed and the absence of the master?s wife, Lucy Kent (who is also dead long before the novel takes place), is palpable. Her death, although relatively distant in time, becomes a catalyst for the events which unfold. So rather than being a novel with the central motif of abundance and bounty as the title would suggest; it is really about loss, barrenness and a terrible crime (or strictly speaking a series of crimes).

My questions for Jim are;
If you could be truly objective about your work, which one of your novels pleased you the most and if readers enjoyed this book, which would you recommend they read next? (I fancy ?Quarantine?).

Did you set out to debunk ?romantic? notions of the countryside or was it the social injustice during this period which interested you the most?

Finally; are you a town or country mouse?

Am I a town or a country mouse? Good question, Babelange. I was bought up in North London, mostly in Enfield, where our ground floor flat on the Pilgrim estate was pretty much the last building of the city before the Green Belt started. I loved living in that hinterland, neither quite belonging to one or the other. Now, after forty years of living near the centre of Birmingham my wife and I have moved into a semi-rural cottage; the Midland conurbation starts across the lane from us, but behind us, beyond the garden, is mile upon mile of open countryside. It feels like my childhood once again.

What should you read next? Well, I am always reluctant to recommend my own books. Can I suggest you take pot-luck in your local bookstore? See which cover grabs you. But don't confuse me with John Crace or Robert Crais.

JimCrace Tue 01-Apr-14 21:28:33

Justwokenup

Hi Jim, I'm new to Mumsnet bookclub but was lucky enough to win a copy of your book this month. Like others I hadn't read any of your previous books and wasn't sure what to expect but I was transfixed. The vivid descriptions have stayed with me for a long time. Like many others I was interested in the ambiguity of the setting and particularly the era and language which feels antiquated yet modern at the same time. I'm interested to hear you suggest shakespearean times as I'd envisaged the setting to be later -maybe because of references to the plague. Do you consider yourself to be a historical writer? And do you read much historical fiction/non-fiction? What are your thoughts on Hilary Mantel?

Hi justwokenup.
I love Hilary Mantel and have been a fan since her early novels. She sets the Gold Standard in literary historical novels. But I do not try to emulate her or to match the depth of her historical knowledge. She holds up a mirror to a real place in a real time, I just make stuff up. My skills, such as they are, are more traditional and more in the oral tradition. I'm a fabulist rather than a realist.

JimCrace Tue 01-Apr-14 21:32:47

hackmum

Another question.

At times the book feels like a dark moral fable, but it also deals with a real historical event - the enclosures. It really conveys the extent to which ordinary people were at the mercy of the whims of individual landowners. I wondered what had drawn you to that subject, what historical reading you'd done and whether there are any books you'd recommend to others?

What drew me to that subject matter, hackmum, was the many walks I have taken in the West Midlands through fields that are etched with the ancient ridge and furrow of pre-enclosure ploughing. On the one hand those landscapes are beautiful, on the other they are records of a cruel dispossession. That kind of conflict was fascinating for me and rich grounds for a novel.

JimCrace Tue 01-Apr-14 21:38:30

sparkysparkysparky

Question for Jim: I was struck by the absence of the Church (capital C). Did your research reassure you that you could keep its direct influence on land and people out of the narrative? Did you consider having clerical power in the story ?

I don't want to come over all preachy again, Sparky Thrice, but my village is intended to be pre-Capitalist, so that when the less benign agents of the ruling class, represented by Edmund Jordan, seize the land, they do so with the Church amongst their cohorts. Just like in History!

Calypso2 Tue 01-Apr-14 21:39:18

Hi Jim, Congratulations on the nomination for Booker Shortlist. Do awards like this mean a lot to you? I imagine it must have lead a lot more people to read your work (I was interested that you said earlier that you just have a small loyal following).

JimCrace Tue 01-Apr-14 21:49:33

Calypso2

Hi Jim, Congratulations on the nomination for Booker Shortlist. Do awards like this mean a lot to you? I imagine it must have lead a lot more people to read your work (I was interested that you said earlier that you just have a small loyal following).

Hi Calypso. (Good Shakespearean name, that.) I won't even pretend that prizes and shortlisting don't matter to me. Harvest was shortlisted for four awards and, although I was the bridesmaid every time, all the attention benefitted sales tremendously. But winning prizes doesn't make writing the next book any easier or any harder. It just earns you bookshop space and persuades a greater number of people to splash out on your writing. How else can readers choose from such a bewildering choice of beautifully produced, well written new novels?

But, to be honest, you can't think about these things all the time. That way madness. You simply have to enjoy the company of your book while you're writing it and then leave the rest to chance.

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 01-Apr-14 21:54:23

I think that pretty much wraps things up.

Thank you to everyone who posted their thoughts and questions and reviewed the book this month.

Jim, thank you so much for taking time out of your evening to join us and providing such thoughtful and interesting answers. We're truly delighted to hear that there is another novel in you...poverty, tourism and love - perhaps Love on the Beach part 2 ? We want to read it already! Do join us again when it's out.

In the meantime enjoy a well earned break and spending precious time with your grandson and family.

JimCrace Tue 01-Apr-14 21:58:25

I'm aware that I might have ignored some of your questions or missed some of your opinions. No rudeness intended. if I had an eight-year old sitting next to me at the computer I would be more efficient and confident, but taking part in these wonderful threads (though I've done it before) always make me appear more clumsy, more pious and less cheerful than I really am. The truth is I hardly ever hold literary conversations with friends or family (and never with neighbours!). My world of writing feels like a private, secretive place, so indulgent and self-serving that I should not impose it on any body else. But I'm an Englishman and like most Englishmen live in a frenzy of politeness. I'll answer any question asked, even if I find it embarrassing, because I know that people's curiosity is only evidence of their interest and kindness. So I thank you all for your interest and kindness, and for the slight boost in income that your purchase of Harvest has caused.

JimCrace Tue 01-Apr-14 21:59:30

RachelMumsnet

I think that pretty much wraps things up.

Thank you to everyone who posted their thoughts and questions and reviewed the book this month.

Jim, thank you so much for taking time out of your evening to join us and providing such thoughtful and interesting answers. We're truly delighted to hear that there is another novel in you...poverty, tourism and love - perhaps Love on the Beach part 2 ? We want to read it already! Do join us again when it's out.

In the meantime enjoy a well earned break and spending precious time with your grandson and family.

AND MAY YOUR CHILDREN FLOURISH, EVERY ONE OF THEM.

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 01-Apr-14 22:31:22

Congratulations to frogletsmum who has won copies of the next 3 bookclub books. We'll be in touch by PM to organise distribution of your prize.

hackmum Thu 03-Apr-14 19:05:28

I somehow managed to miss this, but Jim Crace comes across as a really lovely person.

TreeSticksWine Sat 05-Apr-14 21:25:06

I know I am too late to post any questions for Jim Crace but nevertheless I wouldn't have had much more to say than thank you for Quarantine and Being Dead - among my favourite books of all time. Odd, thought-provoking and haunting enough to stay with me for many years.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now