ROPES Book Awards: Tom's Pick!
Tom’s Pick: Drive Your Plough Over The Bones Of The Dead
Publisher: Fitzcarraldo edtions 2019
Is a book by Nobel Prize winning author Olga Tokarczuk. Set in a small village in the country side of Poland, the story revolves around a bizarre series of murders, committed over a single winter. Janina Duszejko, the books hero, is an animal loving former engineer, whose uppermost passions in life are William Blake and astrology. Against an environment of hostility and indifference, Janina and a group of gauche accomplices try and track down the culprit.
It is told in a manner that is cerebral and quirky, with a gripping plot accompanied at every turn by the narrator’s battery of insights. Tokarczuk was awarded the Nobel Prize for her “encyclopaedic passion” and this book is very much a polymaths romp. The title itself is derived from a line of William Blake’s poetry:
‘In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.
Drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead.’
The book is very readable with unusual colours and accents. As someone who loves oddities and unfashionable locations it struck a chord.
The lead character, despite her eccentricates, is very intelligent and it is fascinating to live inside her head for the duration of the story. There are insights into Polish society, which feels not unlike the atmosphere of Nikolai Gogol’s Russia, corrupt, loutish and coming apart at the seams.
Introverts will feel nourished by the stories internal focus, but this is no wallflowers manifesto. A gripping plot shows a writer as skilled within her craft as she is engaged the libraries of the world. It is a who-dunnit with elbow patches. Once you’ve moved through to the end of the book, you’ll feel acclimatised to her style and yearn for more. Her newest book The Book Of Jacob has very recently been translated into English and is considered her Magnum Opus.