The Western Wind: Book summary and reviews of The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey

The Western Wind

by Samantha Harvey

The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey X
The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey
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  • Published in USA  Nov 2018
    304 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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Book Summary

An extraordinary new novel by Samantha Harvey, The Western Wind is a riveting story of faith, guilt, and the freedom of confession.

It's 1491. In the small village of Oakham, its wealthiest and most industrious resident, Tom Newman, is swept away by the river during the early hours of Shrove Saturday. Was it murder, suicide, or an accident? Narrated from the perspective of local priest John Reve - patient shepherd to his wayward flock - a shadowy portrait of the community comes to light through its residents' tortured revelations. As some of their darkest secrets are revealed, the intrigue of the unexplained death ripples through the congregation. But will Reve, a man with secrets of his own, discover what happened to Newman? And what will happen if he can't?

Written with timeless eloquence, steeped in the spiritual traditions of the Middle Ages, and brimming with propulsive suspense, The Western Wind finds Samantha Harvey at the pinnacle of her outstanding novelistic power.

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BookBrowse Review
Set in the English village of Oakham in 1491, The Western Wind is narrated by local priest John Reve who learns more than he might prefer to know about his neighbors through his time in the confession box. Thomas Newman, the richest man in town, has recently been found drowned. In this superstitious era, people wonder if Newman's death and/or the recent flooding are God's punishment for the arrogance of daring to build a bridge over the river. The archdeacon is eager to find someone to blame for Newman's death so there can be a public execution to reinforce the Church's authority. The dean even suggests that Reve finger one of his parishioners, whether he or she guilty or not.

The writing and the period detail are strong, but there's little narrative drive despite Harvey's unusual strategy of proceeding backwards and this ostensibly being a (murder) mystery. Reve writes of the 'endless watermill of days,' and though the action takes place over just four days it still has that repetitive quality: a cycle of confessions, meals, and village rituals that doesn't feel like it's going much of anywhere. In any case, this has the best first line of the year: 'Dust and ashes though I am, I sleep the sleep of angels.' Potential read-alikes: Harvest by Jim Crace and Gilead by Marilynne Robinson." - Rebecca Foster


Other Reviews
"Starred Review. Breathtaking...The lush period details and acute psychological insight will thrill fans of literary mysteries and historical fiction. This is an utterly engrossing novel." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. Like Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow (1996) and Morris West's The Last Confession? (2001), this compulsively readable portrait of doubt and faith reveals, in small lives, humanity's biggest questions." - Booklist

"Highly recommended for readers of literary and historical fiction." - Library Journal

"A dazzling, challenging read but one worth taking on." - Kirkus

"A medieval mystery from one of the UK's most exquisite stylists." - Guardian (UK)

"My book of the year...It is quite unlike anything else I have read...Harvey re-creates the mindset and beliefs of the medieval world, and makes the concerns of 500 years ago vivid and immediate." - The Bookseller (UK)

"Trumping all the above might be Samantha Harvey, whose relative anonymity should end if her next novel, The Western Wind, does as well as it deserves ... A murder mystery, an acute dissection of class and money, and fabulously written." - Post Magazine, South China Morning Post (Must-Read Books in 2018)

"The Western Wind is an extraordinary, wise, wild and beautiful book - a thrilling mystery story and a lyrical enquiry into ideas of certainty and belief. Surprising, richly imagined, gloriously strange - the best kind of fiction." - Joanna Kavenna, author of A Field Guide to Reality

The information about The Western Wind shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

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Author Information

Samantha Harvey

Samantha Harvey is the author of three novels, Dear Thief, All Is Song, and The Wilderness, which won the Betty Trask Prize. Her books have been shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction, the Guardian First Book Award, and the James Tait Black Prize, as well as longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Baileys Women's Prize. She lives in Bath, UK, and teaches creative writing at Bath Spa University.

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