I feel like I liked this book more than a 3-star rating would have you believe, but I also didn’t like it enough to give it more than a 3 stars?
First thing’s first: Samantha Harvey can write. I read the The Shapeless Unease by her earlier this year and was so impressed by her sharp, affecting writing. That same writing is definitely present in The Western Wind, though more pared down so as to better service its story.
I’m not sure what to say about this novel, to be honest. The story starts out as an ostensibly simple one: a man has died, and a community must reckon with that death. But the narrative structure with which Harvey chooses to tell her story turns it into something much more complex. In particular, The Western Wind is preoccupied with time, with its linearity and circularity, the ways in which it is at once perishable yet continually recurring.
The atmosphere Harvey creates is especially memorable. The more you read this novel, the more you feel as though everything in this community hangs on a precipice, as if something monumental is about to happen. And yet the monumental has already happened: a man has died. But Harvey doesn’t let up the tension. The fact that the narrative is told in reverse chronological order–so that in the beginning of the novel you already know how it’s going to end–and yet still manages to surprise you with revelations the further on you read is truly impressive.
Yet as much as I praise this novel, like I said, I can’t give it more than a 3 stars. It was a little too slow for me, and I just wanted a bit more substance to its characters. Nevertheless, this is a finely honed novel and I can’t wait to see what Samantha Harvey writes next.