Throughout the novel the certainty of the land, the “busy, kindly, scented universe of crops and the unerring traces of its calendar”, is set against the human urge to shape the world into stories, to guess and theorise and surmise. Stories grounded in the landscape also loom large, in customs such as choosing the gleaning queen when the harvest is brought in, or bumping heads against boundary stones to affirm the limits of the local world. What will change with enclosure is that sense of balance: “This land,” Master Kent says, “has always been much older than ourselves … Not any more.” The environmental crisis we are facing now is on a global as well as a local level. Harvest can be read in mythical, even biblical terms, but the physical and emotional displacement of individuals and communities at its heart remains as politically resonant today as it was at the time.
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