The Wake

by Paul Kingsnorth

I first heard of The Wake from an article on NPR, which mentioned that it uses a sort of phantom language, an amalgamation of Old and Modern Englishes into something resembling the language in which Buccmaster, the narrator, would think in. I thought that sounded really interesting, so I picked up the book and began to read. It soon became apparent that the language is one of the few truly interesting things about the book.

I liked Buccmaster, who’s unreliable to a fault, has a superiority complex, and is maybe going crazy. And now that I’m thinking about it, the way his frustrations permeated the book is probably aesthetically really good. And the description, early on, of him finding his house burnt down by the invading French, his sorting through the ashes to find his sword and his wife, and his pervasive, unending grief made me cry in a way that only truly good books can. But, and maybe because of my own mental state while reading it, or maybe because of a flaw in the book itself, I couldn’t finish it. I quit about halfway through, maybe three months into 1077. I might revisit the novel later, now that I’m thinking about the things I’m thinking of while writing this review. But for now, I’m done.