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The Wake

A post-apocalyptic novel set in 1066 by Paul Kingsnorth

Review for The Wake

I wonder how native speakers experience The Wake (I'm Dutch myself). I felt that I was taken along by a bard who kept me spellbound; having to read the novel aloud probably added to this experience. I realized that it was the best way to understand what Kingsnorth had written in his version of old-english. At first I feared I would never be able to finish The Wake, then I got into a rhythm and I just kept on reading to myself. It became clear very soon that Buccmaster, the main character, is rather a coward. Whereas he proclaims to fight the French who have just invaded his country he usually runs away from them. His faith in the old region and old gods also surprises: in 1066 Christianity must have been the leading religion for a long time, Wodan and his companions long forgotten. Kingsnorth combines life in rural England in 1066, descriptions of the fens, invasion and budding madness in a brilliant manner. The invasion by William the Conqueror must have been brutish and must have affected many lives. Buccmaster will not have been the only ‘anglisc’ person on the run. He is however not haunted by the French only, it becomes more and more clear that he is rather full of himself and mad as a hatter. I kept on reading because Kingsnorth gave his sentences a rhythm which made it almost like reading poetry. I suppose this is how in the days before books people listened to the bards. I do not know whether Kingsnorth was aware of this effect, for me it definitely added to the experience of The Wake. I read and listened at the same time. I enjoyed the experience. I would have liked to have seen The Wake go on to the Booker Short List, it might me slightly too much for the majority of readers.