I was sent this book through NetGalley, thanks to the team at Grove Atlantic for approving me!
Title: The Western Wind
Author: Samantha Harvey
Genre: General Fiction (Adult)
Publisher: Grove Press / Grove Atlantic
Publication date: 23rd November 2018
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 deathripples 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?
- Harveys writing is totally immersive and was easy to follow, the description isn’t overdone but gives a reader a real sense of the setting. Nature takes a huge role in the novel, and those sections are especially well written. This passage at the beginning for instance:
‘The first thing I noticed was the wind, which was strong, bitter and easterly. It was coming up to dawn and the sky had the slightest of light…above us a huge, fast sky that’d be blue when the sun rose, and everything but the wind was wet – the track, the grass, the earth, our feet and ankles, the tree trunks, the nests and the fledglings within.’
- The novel is set in 1491, making it somewhat a work of historical fiction. However, I liked that it focused on everyday characters, in a regular village setting. I’ve seen people classifying it as a sort of ‘medieval mystery’ which is quite apt.
- The mystery of what happened to Tom Newman and how this is gradually revealed was also a high point of the novel. As the case progresses you find out more about the residents of Oakham through the viewpoint of the priest John Reve, in the form of their confessions. This was quite interesting and offers a unique perspective. As the novel is also told in Reves point of view, as a reader you get to know a lot more than in a third person narrative voice would.
- The characters in the novel are superstitious, morally conscious and faith driven indicated by the heavy role of the church in the village. I’m not an expert on English history by any means but it seemed realistic enough.
- I felt like the novel digressed and dragged on at certain points, I prefer a slightly faster paced novel but I think this is more a personal preference.
Overall, I was surprised by this novel. Normally this isn’t the sort of novel I’d pick up to read, as I’m not particularly interested in English Medieval history, so I was surprised that I enjoyed some elements of it. Notably the mystery element as well as the description of nature but I don’t think I’d read it again.
I prefer novels in contemporary settings, rather than those set in the past. Do you like reading historical fiction or are you more interested in modern fiction? would love to chat in the comments!
Until next time,