The Western Wind (Paperback)

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I won’t say this book is unlike anything else I’ve ever read, but it felt marvelously unique due to the way it combined so many elements rarely seen together. Harvey expertly merged medieval historical fiction with a reverse chronology, an unreliable narrator—or is that just because of the timeline?—and spectacular imagery. This well-researched book is so immersive. The time (the late fifteenth century) feels appropriately alive, there’s disease, superstition, faith, and mud. There’s so much mud. The people seem like people you could encounter on a daily basis in modern life but they are in no way anachronistic. The language is old fashioned but doesn’t get you bogged down, it gives the essence without becoming pedantic. The depictions of medieval Christianity are just what I would expect having spent several semesters doing a deep-dive into the topic in college: there’s a wonderful blend of folklore, magic, pagan traditions, and Catholicism merging into a fairytale-esque whirlwind.

The story in The Western Wind is mesmerizing—a man is dead. Was he murdered? Was it an accident? Is he even really dead? I suppose you could classify this book as a mystery, the characters are investigating what happened to the missing town figures, after all, but it didn’t read like a mystery to me. There was not a pressing sense that a “bad guy” was lurking, though plenty of people were willing to take responsibility for the untimely demise. Having so much of the character development unfold in a confessional provides a different way of learning about people than usually unfolds: their own perspectives on their actions and themselves—of what they choose to bare to the priest, anyway—gives readers a take that is quite apart from that they would get from reading about those actions from a third person perspective. It makes the ground you stand on in regard to everyone just a little bit shaky. There is one scene in the book (earlyish in the book, but late in the story because of the unconventional chronology) that has stayed with me so vividly, despite having read numerous other books since finishing this one. This book was a haunting, mesmerizing experience.

— Lucinda, Longfellow Books

December 2018 Indie Next List

“Samantha Harvey’s deeply engaging fourth novel is far more than a medieval whodunnit. In 1491 in a dull, poor village in Somerset, England, local priest John Reve finds himself in charge of investigating the drowning of Tom Newman, the richest man in the village. Was it an accident, suicide, or an act of violence? Newman owned most of the area land and the economy of the village depended on his generosity. Who will benefit the most from his passing? Pressured by his superiors to find a quick resolution, Reve reflects on the lives, beliefs, and superstitions of his parishioners, and his compassionate and humorous observations become intelligent and beautiful meditations on religion and existence. Highly recommended.”
— Pierre Camy, Schuler Books (Grand Rapids), Grand Rapids, MI


An extraordinary new novel by Samantha Harvey--whose books have been nominated for the Man Booker Prize, the Women's Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize), and the Guardian First Book Award--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.

About the Author

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.
Product Details
ISBN: 9780802147721
ISBN-10: 0802147720
Publisher: Grove Press
Publication Date: October 15th, 2019
Pages: 304
Language: English