Summary and book reviews of Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

by Olga Tokarczuk

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk X
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2019, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2020, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rachel Hullett
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About this Book

Book Summary

In a remote Polish village, Janina devotes the dark winter days to studying astrology, translating the poetry of William Blake, and taking care of the summer homes of wealthy Warsaw residents. Her reputation as a crank and a recluse is amplified by her not-so-secret preference for the company of animals over humans.

Then a neighbor, Big Foot, turns up dead. Soon other bodies are discovered, in increasingly strange circumstances. As suspicions mount, Janina inserts herself into the investigation, certain that she knows whodunit. If only anyone would pay her mind...

A deeply satisfying thriller cum fairy tale from the winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature, Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead is a provocative exploration of the murky borderland between sanity and madness, justice and tradition, autonomy and fate. Whom do we deem sane? it asks. Who is worthy of a voice?

I.

Now Pay Attention

Once meek, and in a perilous path,

The just man kept his course along

The vale of death.

I am already at an age and additionally in a state where I must always wash my feet thoroughly before bed, in the event of having to be removed by an ambulance in the Night.

Had I examined the Ephemerides that evening to see what was happening in the sky, I wouldn't have gone to bed at all. Meanwhile I had fallen very fast asleep; I had helped myself with an infusion of hops, and I also took two valerian pills. So when I was woken in the middle of the Night by hammering on the door--violent, immoderate and thus ill-omened--I was unable to come round. I sprang up and stood by the bed, unsteadily, because my sleepy, shaky body couldn't make the leap from the innocence of sleep into wakefulness. I felt weak and began to reel, as if about to lose consciousness. Unfortunately this has been happening to me lately, and has to do with my Ailments. I had to sit down and tell myself several ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

A subversive feminist noir mystery set in a remote Polish village, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead both dazzles and defies categorization. Tokarczuk deftly weaves together commentary on the limitations of the body, animal welfare, justice and the nature of violence – which all condense into a fundamental question about fate vs. free will...continued

Full Review (573 words).

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(Reviewed by Rachel Hullett).

Media Reviews

New York Times
The smoother argument made in Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead is that conforming to nature is sanity, whereas conforming to humanity is idiocy. To be in constant grief due to the cruelty of man is not misanthropy, it’s pure logic. 'What sort of a world is this, where killing and pain are the norm?' Duszejko asks. 'What on earth is wrong with us?' This book is not a mere whodunit: It’s a philosophical fairy tale about life and death that’s been trying to spill its secrets. Secrets that, if you’ve kept your ear to the ground, you knew in your bones all along.

Huffington Post
Shimmering with subversive brilliance...this is not your conventional crime story—for Tokarczuk is not your conventional writer. Through her extraordinary talent and intellect, and her ‘thinking novels,’ she ponders and tackles larger ecological and political issues. The stakes are always high; Tokarczuk repeatedly rises to the occasion and raises a call to arms.

The Economist (UK)
Sardonic humour and gothic plot-twists add a layer of macabre rustic comedy.

The Guardian (UK)
One of the funniest books of the year.

The New Statesman (UK)
Tokarczuk's prescient, provocative and furiously comic fiction seethes with a Blakean conviction of the cleansing power of rage…[An] invigorating combination of the mystical, the vengeful and the domestic…elegantly subversive

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Tokarczuk's novel succeeds as both a suspenseful murder mystery and a powerful and profound meditation on human existence and how a life fits into the world around it. Novels this thrilling don't come along very often.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Tokarczuk's mercurial prose seems capable of just about anything. Like the prizewinning Flights, this novel resists the easy conventions of the contemporary work of fiction. In her depictions of her characters and their worlds—both internal and external—Tokarczuk has created something entirely new.

Author Blurb Annie Proulx
Extraordinary. Tokarczuk's novel is funny, vivid, dangerous and disturbing, and it raises some fierce questions about human behavior. My sincere admiration for her brilliant work.

Reader Reviews

Margot P

Original and Engrossing
I went back and forth between 4 or 5 stars but decided on 5 as I have never quite read anything like this. It is comedic, tragic, mysterious, weird but very engrossing and beautifully written. I totally did not see the ending coming as I was so ...   Read More

Sandi W

take my review with a grain of salt...
3 stars Thanks to Edelweiss and Riverhead Books Publishing for the chance to read this ARC. Published August 13, 2019. This is a translated book. Originally written in Polish. This book was so confusing for me. There were parts that I really liked ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Women in Translation

Women in Translation Month logoTranslated fiction is something of a rarity in the English-speaking world. It's been widely reported that only about three percent of books published in the United States were originally written in a language other than English – a statistic that led to the creation of the University of Rochester's Three Percent database, a valuable online resource for all things having to do with international literature. (This database is now hosted by Publishers Weekly.)

Book lover and PhD student Meytal Radzinksi dug a little deeper into the statistical makeup of translated lit, concluding that only about thirty percent of new translations into English are books by female authors. This gender disparity inspired Radzinksi to create the @read_WIT...

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