Wednesday, 11 April 2018

The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey

Book Review

The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey - Reading, Writing, Booking

"Men die because they're born to die."

The Western Wind was released in the UK on 1st March 2018. It is written by Samantha Harvey and published by Jonathan Cape.

If you're expecting a cosy murder mystery with a rotund clergyman at the centre then The Western Wind isn't for you. However, neither is it a bloodthirsty shock a minute thriller. The Western Wind is a slow paced mystery set in the 15th century with a thoughtful and sometimes pompous priest unravelling the mystery. I quite liked the pace of the book, it's slow and steadily unravelling yet it was oddly riveting.

15th century Oakham, in Somerset; a tiny village cut off by a big river with no bridge. When a man is swept away by the river in the early hours of Shrove Saturday, an explanation has to be found: accident, suicide or murder? The village priest, John Reve, is privy to many secrets in his role as confessor. But will he be able to unravel what happened to the victim, Thomas Newman, the wealthiest, most capable and industrious man in the village? And what will happen if he can’t?

Moving back in time towards the moment of Thomas Newman’s death, the story is related by Reve – an extraordinary creation, a patient shepherd to his wayward flock, and a man with secrets of his own to keep. Through his eyes, and his indelible voice, Harvey creates a medieval world entirely tangible in its immediacy.

What adds something a little extra to the narrative is that it is told backwards. I'm not going to lie, this was sometimes confusing but I think it worked as when the revelations came I kept wanting to turn back to previous pages. It's the sort of book you need to read again once it's finished to see all the clues.
However, I didn't read it again because, although I enjoyed The Western Wind, it was a little hard work at some points. The main character John Reve was well developed and thoughtful, but his musings on religion and ethics could sometimes become a little too heavy and held the story back.
Having said that, religion is a big theme within the book and it really shows how in that time period, the Church was at the centre of everything, especially in such a tiny village where a lot of the villagers had never even crossed the river.
This does give the book a slightly oppressive feel, which works well with the mystery, and provides a small cast of suspects and allows the narrator to worm her way into their lives.

This was an ideal book to read in the dingy and drizzly evenings that we've been having recently.

My Rating: 4 Stars

I received a copy of The Western Wind, via NetGalley, in return for an honest review. My thanks to the author and publisher.

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