Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead: A Novel

by Olga Tokarczuk

Other authorsAntonia Lloyd-Jones (Translator)
Hardcover, 2019

Call number

FIC TOK

Collection

Publication

Riverhead Books (2019), Edition: 1st Edition, 288 pages

Description

In a remote Polish village, Janina devotes the dark winter days to studying astrology, translating the poetry of William Blake, and taking care of the summer homes of wealthy Warsaw residents. Her reputation as a crank and a recluse is amplified by her not-so-secret preference for the company of animals over humans. Then a neighbor, Big Foot, turns up dead. Soon other bodies are discovered, in increasingly strange circumstances. As suspicions mount, Janina inserts herself into the investigation, certain that she knows whodunit. If only anyone would pay her mind ...A deeply satisfying thriller cum fairy tale, Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead is a provocative exploration of the murky borderland between sanity and madness, justice and tradition, autonomy and fate. Whom do we deem sane? it asks. Who is worthy of a voice?… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member thorold
Olga Tokarczuk originally trained and practised as a psychologist. She's been writing novels since the early 90s, and started to grab the attention of English-speaking readers last year when [Flights] won the Booker International. She's also a well-known thorn in the side of the xenophobic
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right-wing politicians who claim to speak for Poland these days.

It doesn't take much to guess that William Blake is going to be playing a big part in this novel: apart from the title and the chapter epigraphs, he's also there in the text - the narrator, a semi-retired English teacher, is helping one of her former students to translate Blake into Polish. And the whole moral compass of the narrator's slightly-crazy-but-disturbingly-sane way of describing the world she lives in comes from Blake's disconcerting, prophetic way of calling out the hypocrisies of our everyday life as though they were simple and glaringly obvious things.

But it's also an edgily-uncomfortable parody of the cosy-murder genre. A succession of men meet gruesome deaths in the area around the small hamlet where the narrator lives, and she tries to help the police with her observations and astrological insights. The victims are all prominent members of the local hunting club, and they die in ironic ways that make it look as if the animal kingdom is taking revenge on them for their cruel sport. There's an Ovidian undercurrent here as well, and all sorts of references to folk-tales.

Probably not a book you will want to read if you have venison in your freezer, but very enjoyable - in a slightly disturbing way - for the rest of us. Lots of unexpected little bits of observation.
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LibraryThing member japaul22
[Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead] is a novel that is hard to describe. On the surface, it's a murder mystery set in a small town in Poland on the border with the Czech Republic. It is winter and our aging narrator, Janina, is caring for her neighbors' properties, because only a few stay
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in this remote village over winter. People start dying in suspicious ways. Janina, who is an expert in astrology, suspects the Animals in their region, who are sick of being hunted and eaten by the local men.

Though you would expect that this dramatic-sounding story would be the obvious focal point of the book, it is not. Instead, it's a character study of the unreliable narrator, her neighbors and friends, and life in the village.

It's a unique novel and I see both why it's so respected and popular, and why it might not get glowing reviews across the board. It's a bit tough to know what you're supposed to be experiencing as a reader. But, I ended up really liking it.
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LibraryThing member TooBusyReading
An almost-isolated oldish woman, a small handful of friends and acquaintances, revengeful animals, death. With astrology and William Blake thrown in for good measure. And occasional odd Capitalization of random Words.

All this makes for an interesting novel. There is a mystery – why are the bad
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guys dying? Mrs. Duszejko, who keeps an eye of multiple houses in the unpopular and unpopulated winter, has a theory. This novel doesn't move quickly, and I have to admit I scanned over some of the astrology parts, the the strange plot and the stranger, quirky characters made this book worth reading. And there were some surprises I wasn't anticipating, and that is almost always a good thing.
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LibraryThing member lisapeet
I read this for my book club and loved it—being now firmly in the older, cranky, animal-company-seeking lady demographic that, I'm discovering, has some wonderful representation in fiction. I've already bought a copy of this as a Christmas gift for a fellow cranky old animal loving friend, and
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recommended it to another (who will have much more love for the astrology component, which is not my thing in the least but I appreciated as an example of any method that we get attached to to help make sense of the world).
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LibraryThing member jwhenderson
The title comes from William Blake’s Proverb’s of Hell. It’s a philosophical novel masquerading as a kind of mystery – although it is much more than that.

Because there are so many ideas and themes in the novel, at least for those with a philosophical bent, it became endlessly readable. From
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the first page we are presented with an examination of the process of aging, astrology references and readings, the impact of drugs - natural and otherwise, and omens - both ill and good. The psychology of madness and losing one's consciousness is explored along with the poetry of William Blake (further shades of madness). But above all there is nature and a lonely cold climate filled with many animals and few humans. It is the isolation of the cold climate that comes to the fore as the story begins, and the wonderful narrative voice of Janina Dusejko, whose story is one of a nonconformist whose metaphors are a delight and whose imagination makes this story one that seems almost dream-like at times.

The story is portrayed as a mystery and there is a dead body almost before you are out of the starting gate, yet it is nothing like any mystery I have ever read. It appears to be a character study of its quite quirky narrator who valiantly tries to convince the police that all four deaths are the result of animals taking revenge against hunters. However I believe it is about the mystery of life.

"But why should we have to be useful and for what reason? Who divided the world into useless and useful . . . Does a thistle have no right to life, or a Mouse that eats the grain in a warehouse? Whose intellect can have the audacity to judge who is better, and who is worse?"(p 248)

The lack of detailed investigations and the absence of a plucky detective putting the pieces together is another of the book’s oddities. In doing this it redirects the focus from the typical concern for justice and human lives, and instead allows Janina to unfurl her life story—as an engineer of bridges turned schoolteacher turned caretaker of summer houses, vegetarian, astrologist, co-translator of Blake’s poetry, and devoted animal lover—and her dislike for hunters of all stripes, especially one particular group of poachers, whose connections to the local law enforcement and politicians takes on a conspiratorial air.

A great believer in the power of the planetary configurations on human life, Janina spends her free time with an Ephemeride drawing up cosmograms of people she knows and trying to lend credence to her theories about the influence of stars on human life. She believes order in events are determined by stars. “The stars and planets establish it, while the sky is the template that sets the pattern of our lives."

Janina is also a great lover of Blake’s poems and helps her former student Dizzy, who now works part time as an IT specialist for the police department, in the translation of Blake’s poems. An ardent believer in the rights of animals, she periodically writes letters of protest to all concerned departments to draw their attention to the illegal poaching and hunting of animals that take place in the region. She firmly believes that “Animals show the truth about a country. If people behave brutally towards Animals, no form of democracy is ever going help them, in fact nothing will at all.” But unfortunately her letters go unanswered and her personal visits to the City Guard’s office turn out to be equally futile. After all, who would take the apparent ramblings of a quirky old lady seriously? But Janina believes that one day the animals will take revenge, because contra humans, animals have a keen sense of justice and an excellent sense of the world.

When there is a spate of mysterious deaths in the valley, all the dead people have a history of hunting or poaching animals and in all the deaths there are signs of animals present in the vicinity. Janina conjectures that the animals are taking their revenge from the humans who harmed them. The police department scorns at her theory but, undeterred, she works on the cosmograms of the victims and concludes that for each death there is significant astrological proof that points to the involvement of animals. She calls it her “project without funding from the European Union. A kitchen-table project."

All her efforts to present her hypothesis to the police go in vain and she is slotted as just an old eccentric. The police chalk up the murders to internal conflicts between corrupt people. Dejected, Janina concludes that "people are only capable of understanding what they invent for themselves. The idea of a conspiracy among people from the provincial authorities, corrupt and demoralized, fitted the sort of story the television and the newspapers reveled in reporting." Neither of them are interested in animals, unless a Tiger escapes from the zoo. But after three more deaths when the president of the Mushroom pickers society is found dead under mysterious circumstances, his body covered with a unique species of flat bark beetle, the police finally start paying attention to Janina.

Under the garb of a mystery novel, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead is a combination of philosophical and astrological commentary on the current state of human society. This commentary underlines the battle between free will and determinism as humans are caught in the nets of the great cosmic scheme. There is even a moment when a writer comes to visit and I could not help but speculate that the author had, anonymously, inserted herself into the story. Janina comments, "If I hadn't known her so well, I'm sure I would have read her books. But as I did know her, I was afraid to open them." (p 51)

Ultimately a unique and brilliant novel, one that questions the importance of man in nature and the nature of man. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk is a book I heartily recommend to all.
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LibraryThing member jklugman
I honestly feel better knowing that someone like Olga Tokarczuk is out there writing novels like this. Her protagonist is kind of crazy--as evidenced by her obsession with astrology--but her observations puncture the smug, self-satisfying anthropocentric views that dominate Polish society (among
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others). A mystery serves as a loose unifying structure, as Duszejko (who prefers to go by her last name only) ponders a conspiracy of animals responsible for the deaths of hunters in her rural vilage, but the novel is really about her relationships with other people in the town and her literary, social and existential reflections.
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LibraryThing member annbury
This is a strange and wonderful book, a combination murder mystery, fairy tale, political polemic, and character study. That's a lot to cram into one column, and it took me quite a while to get deeply involved. The central character is an old Polish woman who cares at least as deeply for animals as
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for people, and who is a committed astrologer, convinced that the stars determine our lives and characters. She has friends (an odd group) but she also has enemies. As the novel progresses, it turns out to be operating on several levels, asking profound questions as well as the ones on the surface. When I first started listening, I didn't know if I would finish. By the time I had finished, I had ordered a physical book: I want to reread it, and there are many passages I want to highlight.
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LibraryThing member bell7
Janina - she does hate her name, it doesn't suit her - lives on the plateau year-round and checks in on the houses of those who come up only in the summer. It's winter, and one of her two neighbors dies, apparently choking on the bone of a deer he was eating. Janina feels this deeply, particularly
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because she hates cruelty to animals, and when other mysterious deaths occur, she's convinced that the animals themselves are taking revenge, if only she can get someone to listen.

How to summarize such a book? It's been called a mystery, and there is a mystery, but it's more of a character study. Janina narrates, and we come to know her in all her eccentricities: loving animals more than humans, convinced that astrology has the answers to everything, and increasingly frustrated that her voice is not heard. As a reader, I found her sympathetic, even in all her oddities, and the denouement was less of a surprise than an inevitability.
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LibraryThing member Beamis12
3.5 "In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy. Drive your cart and drive, over the bones of the dead. The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom." William Blake from the Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

The author just won the Novel Prize, announced I believe, today. This is one weird
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story, but somehow compelling in its strangeness. A very unusual lead character, Janina, in her sixties lives on the edge of the Czech/Polish border. She is rather a rec!use with only a few friends, but she loves the animals in Forest, and is mourning the loss of her two missing dogs. Her main occupation is the translating the poetry of William Blake. This and a few side jobs keep her occupied. She is also in bad health and occasionally her condition flares up, keeping her down and out. When bodies of those she is aquainted with are found murder, Janina tries to convince the police that they are being murdered by the animals that are being mistreated.

At one point, in this slowly paced story, I thought I would never get out of Poland. I couldn't figure out where this story was going, nor what it meant. Was Janina losing her mind? Or was it everyone else who not seeing what they should? Is this a fairy tale, a mystery or maybe a parable? Janina also is a strong believer in astrology, and it is these sections that I felt slowed down this novel. Not sure they were necessary, at least not as lengthy. It does highlight the man and animal connection, and if one is not a vegetarian this book makes a strong arguement for being one.

Well, I made it out of Poland and though I'm glad to be done, I'm also glad that I read this very different book. It was unique for sure and provided a very interesting reading experience."

ARC from Edelweiss.
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LibraryThing member bostonbibliophile
This was a fun and rewarding read about a series of strange deaths in the Polish countryside and a reclusive woman with a strange theory of the crimes. I respected the book but I can't say I loved it, although I thought the ending was great. It's moody and might seem overlong or introspective for a
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crime novel but there is a good payoff on the way.
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LibraryThing member P1g5purt
A Polish Magnus Mills with a little E Annie Proulx.
Hugely entertaining.
LibraryThing member nancyjean19
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, and I felt that way most of the time I was reading it. Whenever the narrator started talking about her passions, like astrology, I felt brought in and interested in her perspective. I also enjoyed her quirky group of friends. But like many people who
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like animals more than people (and I say this as a vegetarian!) I felt like she lacked a layer of empathy towards humans and could be rather cold. Maybe that was the point but it made me feel distanced from her. I didn’t feel like she necessarily earned her sense of moral superiority and justice. I didn’t feel like she challenged her surface-level views on others. Maybe they were right, maybe they were wrong but she sure felt confident about it! Also, it bothered me that she bought a down coat! Considering how strongly she feels about fur...! Overall a strange read but interesting and beautiful at times, especially when she’s quoting Blake.
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LibraryThing member bblum
Janina, described as an old crone, dismissed by others, fights the limits of her gender, age and barriers of illness. She also fights with the local hunters as she see animal life as important as humans. Could animals be subject to human law for killing? She rails against being close to the border,
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she rails against all barriers throughout this provocative well written erudite book. She translates Blake from English to Polish with her friend Dizzy. Blake wrote about human encroachment into nature. Janina, who hates her name and names others based on their characteristics, doesn't seem to like people yet learn to the contrary as she was a bridge engineer and an elementary English teacher. She tries to fit the chaos of her world into intricate Astrology charts which absorb her. There is a mystery and murdered hunters but nothing more to be revealed here.
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LibraryThing member Gwendydd
This is a very quirky murder mystery. The narrator, Janina, is an elderly woman who lives in a small isolated town in Poland. Several people in her town are murdered, and she is convinced that animals are taking their revenge on hunters and poachers.

The book is a weird slow burn. Janina is an
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astrologer, and is convinced that by knowing the precise time of someone's birth, it is possible to predict the precise moment of their death. She also admits that she is a terrible astrologer, but continues to ramble at length about the influence of the planets. She has a charming friendship with a young man: the two of them like to translate the poetry of William Blake together. It is clear that she has a group of close friends, and that everyone else sees her as a batty old woman. Despite this, she comes across as sensible if eccentric.

The book is weird, but it's charming and it remains engrossing even as Janina rambles on long tangents about astrology and William Blake and shopping trips and the strange people around her. As with any good murder mystery, the eventual revelation of the murderer is delightfully surprising.
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LibraryThing member RidgewayGirl
In an isolated Polish community near the Czech border, Janina is one of the only three people who live there all year round. When one of them, a poacher disliked by Janina, is found dead, it falls to her and the other neighbor to dress him and notify the authorities. When a second man goes missing
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and a third man is found murdered, Janina notices things that are missed by the authorities, like the animal tracks around the bodies.

This is an odd and wonderful noir, with a main character who is even more interesting than the murders. Janina is given to strong opinions, deeply devoted to astrology and considers animals every bit as conscious and valuable as human beings.

This was a wonderful introduction to Tokarczuk, who has won both the Man Booker Prize and the Nobel Prize. I look forward to reading more by her.
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LibraryThing member evano
Unreliable narrator... yes I understand. But I didn't buy the exposition. It made sense, but it blindsided me and not in a good way. Wonderful writing, wonderful characters. But minus a half-star for unexpected unhappy surprises.
LibraryThing member Penny_L
The title piqued my interest, and the story held it. Set in the Polish countryside, this novel explores the harshness of seclusion and the toll it can take on a person's mental health.
Told in first person narrative, the story is quirky and at times humorous, despite the underlying grief. An
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interesting plot, and a cast of eccentric characters, segues into a mystery with a surprising twist. This well written story examines the consequences brought about when someone feels powerless, unheard and disregarded for far too long.
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LibraryThing member over.the.edge
Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead
by Olga Tokarczuk
Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
2009 / 2019
Penguin
4.5 / 5.0

Extraordinary. A brilliant look at what it means to be a human being, and what it means to be an animal. Why is killing an animal considered sport, but killing a human is murder?
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Should animals be given the same right to life as humans; could animals then be charged with murder? This book explores the trappings of human trappings that could leave us caught in traps of our device.

This is about the footsteps we take, that leave footprints; that are a path of our actions. Of our true intentions. If we do not leave footprints that could lead to the hurt or trappings of others, we will be less inclined to fall into our own trap. It references deer hunting several times.The book begins by explaining how before going to sleep at night, we should wash our feet, in case we are carried away by ambulance before we wake. The premises in this book are enthralling, will make you think about so many things, and you will never forget it. It deserves all the awards it has been given.
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LibraryThing member DGRachel
Once I heard Olga Tokarczuk won the 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature and was a winner of the Man Booker International Prize, I was worried I wouldn’t like this book at all, but I’d already bought it. Very often, I find award winners to be dull and tedious reading. I’ve never been so glad to be
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wrong.

I absolutely loved this murder mystery. I wouldn’t really call it a thriller, it’s a little slow in its pacing for that, but the writing is absolutely gorgeous and spoke to me on a deep level. I felt connected to the main character and to the story. I loved the plot and the ending. I think the less you know going in the better - just open the book and enjoy the ride. But definitely, open the book.
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LibraryThing member rynk
Janina Duszejko is a bit cranky. A onetime civil engineer, she teaches English in a rural Polish school near the Czech border, translates Blake for fun (a quote from "Proverbs of Hell" is the book's title) and charts oddly detailed horoscopes. She's getting on in years, with aches and pains that
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bring her closer to God, or so might have said one of her lovers. She has opinions: Lately the town's hunters are dying, and Mrs. Duszejko tells neighbors (and, insistently, the police) that it's the animals' revenge. Either she's off her rocker or on to something--or both. Nominally this novel is a murder mystery, but mostly we're just trying to figure out Mrs. Duszejko, and there's plenty to solve.
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LibraryThing member rglossne
This is a difficult book to describe. Literary murder mystery doesn't quite do it. Janina lives in a remote Polish village, taking care of summer people's homes, casting horoscopes, and translating Blake to Polish. People are dying in mysterious ways, and Janina puts herself in the middle of the
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investigation. This book asks questions about madness and sanity, justice, and the role of place in people's lives and worldview.
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LibraryThing member stillatim
Less formally interesting than House of Night or Flights, but still very well done and glorious to read.
LibraryThing member rrkreads
Though the book was simple enough in premise, plot, and characters. Once I completed it, and let the story seep into my brain, I had trouble sorting through my thoughts and feelings regarding it.

In short, I cannot fully say if I liked the book or not. For the first time in my reading life, I don't
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have a verdict. Oh! I have plenty of opinions and questions. I hated some parts and loved some. But, if you ask me to add it all up and give you a number I can't because I am not sure if the sum of the parts is really an accurate indicator of my feelings for this book.

Ok, so I do realize I am rambling so let me start it all from the beginning. From the synopsis.

This is a story of an old woman named Janina who lives all by herself in a remote Polish village. She leads a simple, content life with her Ailments and old people problems even during the winter when most of the population prefers staying in the cities/towns. One day her neighbor she refers to as Big Foot ends up dead, which in turn leads to a chain of murders of high profile people. Janina claims to know who's done it. But her theories are stranger than fiction and hence are summarily dismissed by everybody. Will the murderer be found? and What are their motivations? forms the crux of the story.

Let me tell you I went in expecting horror or at the least a good mystery thriller. This was neither and that's partly why I was so sorely disappointed by the end of this book. This is literary fiction with some excellent philosophical ramblings and that's it. There's no story. This book could have been 50 pages and you still would have had your story. But I diverge.

My lack of enjoyment was purely due to my misunderstanding. If you get into it as a literary fiction then your enjoyment of this book will be infinitely more than mine. While I thoroughly enjoyed the philosophical queries and ruminations I kept hoping for the thrill that never came, for the suspense that never was.

Now there were many aspects of the book that I enjoyed, those parts justified all the awards heaped on this book. The hype was apparently for the way words were used.

The spool of thoughts was laid down so beautifully on paper that we as readers could unravel it in whichever way we wished to. Sometimes I couldn't untangle them and I got confused but the times I could. Oh! the bliss!

My entire book is filled with tabs and paragraphs I have marked up for future reading. Now I realize this blog post is too small a space for those amazing verses.

Still, I'll give you a peep into some of my favorites:

Animals have a very strong sense of justice. I remember the look in their eyes whenever I did something wrong, whenever I scolded them unfairly or failed to keep my word. They'd gaze at me with such awful grief as if they simply couldn't understand how I could have broken the sacred law. They taught me quite basic, plain, and simple justice. We have a view of the world, but Animals have a sense of the world, do you see?

It's strange how the Night erases all colours, as if it didn't give a damn about such worldly extravagance.

Also, there's a hilarious letter where she lists the historical cases of crimes committed by animals. My favorite part from that letter:

In 1659 in Italy, the owners of vineyards destroyed by Caterpillars submitted to them a written summons to court. Pieces of paper with the wording of the summons were nailed to trees in the area, so the Caterpillars might become acquainted with the indictment.

As I said I have some absolute gems of verse marked up in my book that I am sure to refer back to in years to come but they are purely due to my love for literature and nothing to do with the story/the characters.

Now to the parts that were problematic for me. I cannot comment or discuss the parts I didn't enjoy/like without spoiling the book for you so the rest of the content will be a complete spoilery rant. So, please click here to go to the conclusion if you don't want to read any spoilery content.

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The contradictions
This book was full of contradictions. On the one hand, Janina asks "Who are we to judge anybody, doesn't everybody deserve a right to live?" and at the same time goes ahead and murders people who in all respects are contributing members of society with their own families. While she has a problem with killing animals, rightly so, how does she not feel any guilt when she brutally murders humans, beings of her kind? Doesn't make any sense at all.

Were the hunters evil? Yes. Was the system was corrupt? Yes.
Did somebody bother to speak up against the rampant poaching and killing of the innocent animals? No.

Now my pertinent question: Do the above reasons justify the murder of 4 people?
Another question: What kind of message did the protagonist send by murdering the villains? That hunting is bad? that she was an insane murderous old woman? or that anybody can murder anybody as long as the reason is justifiable?

What kind of anarchy will that be then? If everybody can get away with murders what kind of world would that be? Doesn't everybody suffer from loss? from injustice? from the unfairness of it all? So should everybody start murdering people they don't like?

2. Personal revenge hidden as revenge on behalf of the animals. This was my pet peeve with this book.

Our protagonist has been living in that village for quite a long time, the animal killings have been going on for a long time and yes, she's been writing letters against the killings. But, it's only after she realizes that her own dogs were killed that she thirsts for "real justice". Can you believe that? Personal revenge masquerading as animal justice? I was quite uncomfortable with that. Nope, I don't condone murder as a way to get justice for your murdered dogs. Nope, that just doesn't sit well with me.

When I ranted to my husband he said: "Some people treat their dogs as their family members, it must have hurt her terribly", also "What else could she have done?"

True, as I said she was thirsting for revenge and there was nothing else she could have done. The entire society, police force was mutely watching the atrocities.

I agree, but my only point is: then, let it be a revenge story, let it not be romanticized as a justice story. Because if we do that, then it means we condone murder whatever the reasons are and that's a very thin and dangerous line to cross.

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Conclusion
I loved the process of reading this book. It was a wonderful piece of literature. I detested the ending. I was expecting a horror/mystery suspense thriller but got a piece of literary fiction. I enjoyed the astrological references. Overall a book that'll make you think. A book that shows a grey world not a black and white one. A book that will be discussed for many years to come.

Review, recommendation, and rating

Not many books tell stories from the perspective of old people. We need more books about old people. Their troubles, their thoughts, and their life. I adored that aspect of this book. Read this book to get a glimpse into the mind of a very just, albeit troubled mind of an old woman who loves animals more than she loves beings from her kind. This book is not for everybody though, be warned.
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LibraryThing member modioperandi
Finally, I got to reading and finishing Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarchuk. The Booker Prize motivated me to get acquainted with this author and I did not regret the time spent reading. It is totally engrossing. I read it twice - 1st straight read, 2nd with the audiobook.
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And. The. Audiobook. Is Amazing. One of the best listening experiences in a very long time.

Nature. Murder. Intrigue. Stars. and Blake! this novel has a whole lot going on and its expertly done.

This is a novel, the reading of which slowly creates a desire to leave the city and live in the countryside for at least a few days or weeks, preferably in a mountain village but as the novel goes on and on that feeling ebbs and flows and it becomes unclear if that is even the point of the novel which it seems to be in the beginning. The novel simmers in a sense of unease and calm.

These heroes, anti-heroes, villain heroes, murders of murderers, there are many ways to look at the main characters but they are all hermits. Hermits with opinions. The looked over ones who rise to the surface and what is seen finally what is noticed is not usually what others want to see. They live on an abandoned farm, most of the inhabitants of which leave their cold homes there for six months, returning only in the spring.

The events are tragic, starting with the murder of Velyka Stupna, the neighbor of the main character Yanina Dusheyko. A photograph was found in his apartment and caused the whole course of events later. And these events are murders again.

There is no shocking detective story in the sense of intrigue, tickling nerves, impatience and tips. Everything is balanced and confident, calmly moving towards a solution, which the reader may not be too eager for, distracted by the author's fleeting tactful reflections, to accurate observations of the world and the people around.

I was also interested in the final reflections on hunters and their heavenly patron. And what is more interesting, the text of the sermon of the chaplain of hunters was compiled by the author from real sermons of priests.

And the characters translate Blake, sometimes drinking tea or wine, sometimes silent. But despite everything, they have real human relationships. I would call this novel an eco-fantasy-novel, a novel for conscious and mature readers who appreciate nature, love animals, love solitude and care about their own space.

I plan to read more from Tokarczuk.
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LibraryThing member soylentgreen23
'Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead' is the first book I've read by the Nobel laureate Olga Tokarczuk. The most obvious question to ask, then, is: did this feel like a book written by somebody who had so mastered the craft of writing that they would go on to win the big prize? The answer
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is, for me, a clear no. The book took me from the middle of June to the start of September to get through - I would pick it up, read a few pages, get bored, and put it back down to go off and do something else instead. I finished it more out of a sense of duty - the book was a birthday present from my wife - than anything else.

So, what of the story? Well, Mrs Duszejko lives out in the wooded mountains in the west of Poland, close to the Czech border. She has a few friends, and she has nicknames for them all - and for the other people she knows in the nearby village. She loves animals, she doesn't eat meat (or at least I don't think she does - I can't now remember), she is fascinated by the poetry of William Blake, and she is a keen astrologer. Very keen, in fact. So keen that large swathes of the book are given over to musings on how much of an impact astrology has on the world. When she isn't talking about the stars, though, she is all too keen to tell us the back story to pretty much everything she encounters, and this really brings the book to a thudding halt on more than one occasion.

Anyway, the story proceeds in fits and starts, as first her neighbour and then some other notable citizens are found dead and/or murdered. Mrs Duszejko thinks that the people have all been killed by animals - retribution for their own suffering at the hands of these hunters. But, without wanting to spoil the ending, Mrs Duszejko is a terribly unreliable narrator, and if you've recently watched any of the John Wick films the ending might not be as much as a surprise as Tokarczuk would have wanted.
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Pages

288

ISBN

0525541330 / 9780525541332
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