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The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth

The Wake (2014)

by Paul Kingsnorth

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3531730,914 (3.62)1 / 38

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(Rating: 5.0 /5.0, even) ( )
  rabbit.blackberry | Oct 19, 2017 |
(Rating: 5.0 /5.0, even) ( )
  rabbit.blackberry | Oct 19, 2017 |
After the Norman invasion of 1066 the people of England suffered greatly and no more so than in East Anglia. The story of Hereford the Wake is well-known, a man who rose up against his oppressors with the power of the people in support but who ultimately failed against the might of the Normans. This is a story of a man who loses everything and revolts.

The book was only published after crowd-funding raised enough money to do so and it is clear why the established publishing houses were reluctant to take this book on. The story is written in a language which is neither modern English nor authentic Anglo-Saxon - it is a parallel language designed to reflect the times that the story is set in. That makes the job of the reader really difficult as much of the time one is deciphering the narrative rather than enjoying it. It's a challenge to read and therefore is admired rather than liked but applauded for sheer audacity. ( )
1 vote pluckedhighbrow | Jun 26, 2017 |
I went into listening to this book with high hopes. I'm a Dark Mountain subscriber, and think that Kingsnorth [one of the editors], is a very cool guy.

I had heard all about the Old English used throughout the book, and heard that his editors had him tame it down a bit. I wish they hadn't. Other than a few words I didn't understand here and there, it didn't feel that novel.

I also heard parallels to an "Armageddon" story. But I didn't get this from the book. There was an angry alienated privileged guy who was justifiably angry throughout the book. It wasn't a striking or revealing storyline for me though.

Also, the scope of the story was small, but without depth. I love stories that dive deep into a very small context [I could read an entire Lord of the Rings about having tea in the shire, like Frog & Toad]. This story didn't have that richness for me of the Old Gods and the Old World. There were many allusions, but not much meat.

I do think more people should be telling stories like this [about different people in deferent times that we might relate with]. ( )
  willszal | Jul 24, 2016 |
I'm still thinking about this book, six months after reading it.

The Wake is set in eleventh century England after the Norman Conquest. The narrator Buccmaster is pathetic and his arrogance is terrifying; he is a man stuck in the past who sees himself as powerful, important and unfairly treated. He's unable to reflect on his thoughts or actions and is completely unwilling to understand the perspectives of others. When the Normans take over Buccmaster's old life is gone, but he doesn't have the flexibility and insight to respond. The story is about what happens when Buccmaster is forced to act. That all sounds horrible but it's completely absorbing.

The book is written in a quasi-Old English which really helps to highlight the familiar strangeness of this period in English history. This is the anchovy in the pizza - you'll either love it or you really really won't. There are some Old English words that might be unfamiliar but most of the time reading aloud or just going with the flow worked just fine. It takes time to adjust. If you hated reading Riddley Walker then I would probably think twice about starting this. Similarly, if you're a precise reader who must know the meaning of every word before you proceed, this book might drive you bonkers. But if you're prepared to plunge into a well-constructed past world with a memorable narrator, it's well worth the effort.
1 vote Pencils | Jun 6, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
Truly understanding The Wake therefore entails taking on Buccmaster’s suffering, paring down the rich variety of your own language as you watch the French strip everything from him. Understanding him and empathizing with him are one and the same, a coin’s face and its obverse. It took me just about 50 pages to get a feel for it—50 pages before his syntax settled into my bones, before his voice came through clearly, before his heartbreak was mine. Though different readers will experience the book in different ways, I suspect I’m not alone in reaching that 50-page milestone. If you’re not at ease by this point, you’re unlikely to keep reading.

The trouble is that Buccmaster may not be worthy of the empathy we develop.
added by elenchus | editslate.com, Jacob Brogan (Sep 28, 2015)
Kingsnorth is a green activist, author of an attack on corporate control and blandness called Real England, and his first novel has a fierceness about it that gives it real heft.
added by melmore | editThe Guardian, Adam Thorpe (Apr 2, 2014)
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I have persecuted the natives of England beyond all reason.
Whether gentle or simple I have cruelly oppressed them.
Many I unjustly disinherited;  innumerable multitudes
perished through me by famine or the sword.

Having gained the throne of that kingdom by so many crimes, 
I dare no leave it to anyone but God.

  Deathbed confession of Guillaume Le Bâtard, 1087
England is become the residence of foreigners and the property
of strangers...they prey upon the riches and vitals of England;
nor is there any hope of a termination of this misery.

  William of Malmesbury, 1125
First words
the night was clere though i slept i seen it.  though i slept i seen the calm hierde naht only the still.  when i gan down to sleep all was clere in the land and my dreams was full of stillness but my dreams did not cepe me still
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Book description
A post-apocalyptic novel set a thousand years ago, The Wake tells the story of Buccmaster of Holland, a free farmer of Lincolnshire, owner of three oxgangs - a man clinging to the Old Gods as the world changes drastically around him. After losing his sons at the Battle of Hastings and his wife and home to the invading Normans, Buccmaster begins to gather together a band of 'grene men', to take up arms and resist their brutal invaders. (Blurb)
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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.… (more)

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