Buccmaster Of Holland is a Lincolnshire farmer, a prosperous man and the owner of three “oxgangs.” He has bonded servants, land, power, he is a big man in town, a pagan and, quite possibly, a bit mad. As the book opens he is full of grim forebodings; there’s a “hairy star” in the sky and the sight of “a great blaec fugol it was not of these lands it flown slow ofer the ham one daeg at the time of first ploughan” adds to his sense of impending doom. Then the Normans invade, he loses both of his sons at Hastings, his wife is raped and killed and his “ham” is burnt to the ground. He takes to the fens, becomes a “Grene man” and resolves to fight the invaders.
As you can tell this story is not written in plain English, it’s written in a version of old English and it oddly works; a thousand years ago was an alien time and the writing emphasises this. It’s a struggle at first, but you quickly come to understand things. And I truly wish I had read this before I took part in the post apocalypse podcast because that’s what this story is; it’s a post apocalypse survival story which happens to be set a thousand years ago.
However what truly lifts this book abovethe norm is the main character. Buccmaster of Holland is a bit of a prick. He savagely beats his wife early on. He has an extremely high opinion of himself. He makes quite a lousy “Grene man” sometimes and frankly, he comes across as a more violent Nigel Farage. It’s about English identity, human ties to the land, survival, the origins of the England that we know, the end of the world.
It is easily the best novel by an English writer I have read this century, and in in our post Brexit era, when thoughts of English nationalism are permeating the air, it feels oddly prescient.
Length of Read:Medium
Might appeal to people who enjoyed…
Blood Meridian and The Road by Cormac McCarthy, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban, Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel
One thing you’ve learned
A hell of a lot of vaguely old English terms.