it is also possible to read Harvest as a standalone work, especially because Harding opens the overarching story by means of a previously unexplored viewpoint — that of the steadfast, stay-at-home Richard, who has been left to shoulder different burdens. As Hussey implies, there is the finest of lines between seeing action and seeing the consequences of war and, more often than not, “none of it is quite what one thinks”. Harvest is a work of delicate, devastating beauty, proof that Harding is a writer of rare insight who deserves to be read more widely.
Jonny is a photographer whose Japanese lover, Kumiko, comes to stay at his mother and brother’s Norfolk farm.
In outline, that’s it — yet as Harding moves fluently between each character, she deals with widowhood, sibling rivalry and the legacy of war, as the unfinished business of a long-ago family tragedy is finally unearthed.
Whether you find this slow-burn tale graceful or just glacial may depend on your patience; but stay the course and the payoff is devastating.
Harding writes with spare precision, her deceptively simple sentences heavy with the weight of the words that are not there. Like Jonathan, she has a photographer’s eye, alert always to the movement of light and shade, framing her scenes so that they show far more than they tell. Late in the novel Kumiko observes to Jonathan that it is his job to watch. “You look,” she says. “You see, and you show us things about the world we live in that we don’t know we’ve seen.” So does Harding. Her Norfolk landscape is both beautiful and bleak, a land that can be cultivated, even with roses, but which can never fully be controlled.