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Summary

Oakham, near Bruton, is a tiny village by a big river without a bridge. When a man is swept away by the river an explanation has to be found. The story is relayed by the village priest, John Reve, who, in his role as confessor, is privy to a lot of information that others are not. But will he be able to explain what happened to the victim? And what will happen if he can’t?

©2018 Samantha Harvey (P)2018 W. F. Howes Ltd

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What listeners say about The Western Wind

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Much more than a medieval whodunnit





The Western Wind is certainly unusual with its central event being in 1491 when in the Somerset village of Oakham the body of Thomas Newman, a good, important and generous man, is found – separate from his shirt – in the river, the river for which the villagers are pleading for a bridge to end their isolation from the other better off villages around. Not everyone, including the rural dean, is in agreement with the bridge.
So who drowned Thomas Newman? The whole story is told by the contemplative parish priest John Reve who in his confession box is privy to many people’s secrets – as well as those in his own heart. Harvey creates the fifteenth century ways, mind-sets, beliefs, suspicions and a wealth of everyday tasks with great skill, as well as the powerful rhythms of the seasons, earth and winds. The central mystery unfolds as a succession of villagers claim their guilt in the confession box and as Reve sifts through them, a network of grievances, losses and quarrels underpinning those confessions are revealed.
The narration is appropriate. Nyasha Hatendi's voice is quiet, soft and gentle but I did find it trying after a while through no fault of his. I think I would have preferred to read this book than listen to it, because there’s plenty of beautiful language which needs to be savoured by slower reading or re-reading, and John Reve’s unvaried voice and tone would not have become so tiresome.

5 people found this helpful

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Simply outstanding

Wow! what an amazing writer. Almost like reading poetry. Atmospheric
tense, just LOVED it. I can not recommend it enough.

3 people found this helpful

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Unusual poetic haunting

The first-person narrators is a modern voice in a medieval, spiritual world suspended between God and Nature. He is a most unreliable reliable narrator, he tells the truth almost unwillingly in a prose that reads like poetry.

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Thoughtful and reflective but struggled to finish

I listened to this book before and during Easter which paralleled part of the novel. There is an original plot, set in mediaeval England which is well researched and with dialogue and behaviour that feels authentic; and recounts the death and it’s ramifications of a prominent drowned villager, narrated by the young priest with a varied cast of the genuine, the simple, the prejudiced and the devious.

The pace is slow and although the tale expands into thoughtful character reflections and examination of belief and faith, it didn’t move and develop sufficiently for me. I saw it through but struggled.

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An enjoyably slow, winding, sometimes-eerie story

The broken timeline sometimes had me struggling to piece together the book's sequence of events, but it works fantastically as a device for keeping crucial information back, information that will cause you to reevaluate what you think you know. The setting is beautifully realised too and the characters and sights of the medieval village of Oakham really come to life through both the story and the narration.

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Great feel for the setting

The narrator is well cast and the atmosphere is well done. The story has an interesting time line.

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A medieval pastoral dilemma

I liked the beginning and I empathised with the reeve but as the story unfolded, the characters seemed forever confined to the boundaries of village life.

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Powerful, poignant and full of tender humanity.

An outstanding novel which conjures up late Medieval England in almost. palpable form. A must read.

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Intriguing novel

I found the premise intriguing, the story told backward by an unreliable narrator however at times I found it banal in its detail of the priest’s views. Well narrated, I would recommend.

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Glad I persisted but then...

Compelling opening which hooked. Beautiful language and reconstruction of a historical era and medieval mind. Poor plot stretched too thin with all the interest delivered towards the end because of the backward structure. extremely weak denouement which left me cheated having persisted through the whole novel. A beautiful written book which proved to be a disappointment. Well done on the research and the medieval Catholic mind though.