The Wake, by Paul Kingsnorth

The Wake 23.08.14

Written entirely in ‘shadow-tongue’, The Wake makes for an usual and intriguing read.

Publisher: Unbound | Publication date: 20th March 2014 | Edition: Hardback (own copy)

sum thing is cuman

A most refreshing way of telling a tale.

The language enchanting, it provides a regular beating pulse throughout the book and adds a mystical quality to the era.

It’s an interesting story, rather than a gripping one. Keeping to an even pace it is perfectly timed, almost lyrical, allowing you to absorb the “shadow tongue” the writer has adopted throughout.

The story is one of a man of the Lincolnshire Fenns and the changing times he finds himself in following the Norman invasion. This is told in his own words, some are familiar, some are not. At first it was hard going, particularly as there are no capital letters where you expect them to appear and it’s missing the usual things like full stops at the end of sentences. You might think that gruelling, but you easily settle into the beat of the writing.

One word to the wise – stupidly, I didn’t realise this book had a glossary in the back (should have gone to Specsavers) and only found that out when I searched for a word online. Therefore, some parts I had to read twice. For example:

Fairly early on someone in the story was unwell and this was being discussed,

…we needs sum wif (‘woman’) to be with him with eced (vinegar) and senap (mustard) and wyrts (herbs)…

In my head I’d vaguely translated that this ‘lady’ didn’t have mustard (senap) as she should have, but she had a moustache (cenap) instead. I know they believed in all sorts of cures back then, but even so – the glossary was a huge relief from then on!

This book is bizarre and totally different from anything I’ve read before. For me, it’ll certainly be a keeper.

Highly recommended to those with patience.

Rating: 4/5



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