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Published on July 23rd, 2014


The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth

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Blurb: Everyone knows the date of the Battle of Hastings. Far fewer people know what happened next…Set in the three years after the Norman invasion, The Wake tells the story of a fractured band of guerilla fighters who take up arms against the invaders. Carefully hung on the known historical facts about the almost forgotten war of resistance that spread across England in the decade after 1066, it is a story of the brutal shattering of lives, a tale of lost gods and haunted visions, narrated by a man of the Lincolnshire fens bearing witness to the end of his world. Written in what the author describes as ‘a shadow tongue’ – a version of Old English updated so as to be understandable for the modern reader – The Wake renders the inner life of an Anglo-Saxon man with an accuracy and immediacy rare in historical fiction. To enter Buccmaster’s world is to feel powerfully the sheer strangeness of the past.

(Unbound, 2014)

Adam Thorpe, The Guardian 

“Apart from a subdued sense that the novel intends a modern parallel with our own dispossessed times, the narrative keeps us firmly within its very particular universe: we are linguistically belted in for the entire ride. The small effort it demands of the reader triggers a greater engagement, and the effort lessens as the pages turn. More importantly, Kingsnorth has a sensitivity that lifts what might have been a clever exercise into a literary triumph.”

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Robbie Millen, The Times

“You will have to get used to cwelling and beorning (killing and burning), wifman (wives) and fyr (fire). The Wake is hardcore creative writing, rendered from beginning to end in a shadow language, a sort of cod Old English, stripped of Latinate influences. At first, it is heavygoing but with the aid of a small glossary and concentration — this is no beach read — its rhythm carries you along … Creative writing from the pen of a lefty ecologist — and one that was crowd-funded by the pledges of 400 readers — would normally have me running for the Fens. But this unusual novel has power.”

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John Self, The Sunday Times

“The language gets easier to follow as you read. It takes time and concentration, but it is effort repaid because, like William Golding’s The Inheritors, it forces you into another, more ancient way of seeing things. Like The Inheritors, it tells of the death of an old way of living, from the viewpoint of the losers, and is suffused with sadness. Yet this most forcefully historical of novels is also full of relevance. Buccmaster’s fury comes from fear of losing all he knows, and being a stranger in his own land.”

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