The Wake

The Wake

A Novel

eBook - 2014
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"A work that is as disturbing as it is empathetic, as beautiful as it is riveting." --Eimear McBride, New Statesman

In the aftermath of the Norman Invasion of 1066, William the Conqueror was uncompromising and brutal. English society was broken apart, its systems turned on their head. What is little known is that a fractured network of guerrilla fighters took up arms against the French occupiers.
In The Wake , a postapocalyptic novel set a thousand years in the past, Paul Kingsnorth brings this dire scenario back to us through the eyes of the unforgettable Buccmaster, a proud landowner bearing witness to the end of his world. Accompanied by a band of like-minded men, Buccmaster is determined to seek revenge on the invaders. But as the men travel across the scorched English landscape, Buccmaster becomes increasingly unhinged by the immensity of his loss, and their path forward becomes increasingly unclear.
Written in what the author describes as "a shadow tongue"--a version of Old English updated so as to be understandable to 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. A tale of lost gods and haunted visions, The Wake is both a sensational, gripping story and a major literary achievement.

Publisher: Minneapolis, Minnesota : Graywolf Press, 2014.
ISBN: 9781555979072
Characteristics: 1 online resource


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Jul 04, 2018

Set in 1066 England and written in a “shadow tongue” of Old English, making the novel stylistically complex yet offering a reading experience that conveys the otherness of 11th century England, this vivid first person narrative recounts the Norman invasion of England from the perspective of an Anglo-Saxon man named Buccmaster of Holland. Upon the Norman invasion and the destruction of Buccmaster’s hamlet and all he has, he flees to the holt and gathers a group to drive out the foreign invaders of his land. He also, in contrast to many in the story, views Christianity, which has become the dominate religion in England, as another foreign intrusion that must be driven out. Rich in historical detail and descriptions of what religion and life was like for an Anglo-Saxon follower of “the old gods,” this bleak narrative is a gripping tale, which I would highly recommend.

Dec 07, 2015

"It was written in what might be called a shadow tongue--a pseudo-language intended to convey the feeling of the old language. . ."
When I heard that the debut novel by Paul Kingsnorth, a poet and former journalist, was written in a homage to Old English (he calls it a "shadow tongue"), I was immediately intrigued. Kingsnorth (kind of a perfect writer name) imagines the chaotic, violent world of England after the Norman conquest. You can appreciate its Joycean linguistic inventiveness while still having trouble following it. It actually makes more sense to read out loud. No doubt this will appeal to anyone who had to suffer through "Beowulf" or "The Song of Roland" in English class. Pairs well with mead.


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