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The Wake

(Buccmaster Trilogy #1)

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  2,685 ratings  ·  546 reviews
In the aftermath of the Norman Invasion of 1066, William the Conqueror was uncompromising and brutal. English society was broken apart, its systems turned on their head. What is little known is that a fractured network of guerrilla fighters took up arms against the French occupiers. 
      In The Wake, a postapocalyptic novel set a thousand years in the past, Paul Kingsnort
Hardcover, 365 pages
Published April 3rd 2014 by Unbound (first published April 2014)
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Marie Yes, I think that what we're following is the mental unravelling of Buccmaster. He has not just lost his world externally - he is losing his internal …moreYes, I think that what we're following is the mental unravelling of Buccmaster. He has not just lost his world externally - he is losing his internal world, his grip on reality. In short, he is going mad. The double-columned internal dialogue that he is having with Weland Smith could even be a sign of schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder. It reminds me a little of the portrayal of Gollum/Smeagol who has the same kind of ongoing internal dialogue.(less)
Dave Taylor It's all set within a relatively small area - and the contrast between Buccmaster's grand ambitions and that restricted local scope is a telling story…moreIt's all set within a relatively small area - and the contrast between Buccmaster's grand ambitions and that restricted local scope is a telling story element in itself.

His title - "of Holland" - gives us the general setting - we are in or somewhere near the modern district of South Holland in Lincolnshire, which lies between Peterborough and The Wash and takes its name from the earlier administrative subdivision (of mediaeval origin) "Parts of Holland", which stretched further north around the Wash, also taking in Boston.

The tale appears to start a few miles north of Market Deeping; the first clear identification seems to be the modern village of Langtoft, and just north of that is modern Baston, which I think must be "Bacstune". Then Stamford, some miles to the west, is clearly written.(less)

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Average rating 4.01  · 
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 ·  2,685 ratings  ·  546 reviews

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"lif is a raedel for dumb folc but the things i has seen it is not lic they sae. the bocs and the preosts the bells the laws of the crist it is not like they sae"

this is a good boc about a triewe anglisc man who was feotan the ingengas who cwelled harold cyng he is buccmaster a socman with three oxgangs but the fuccan frencs beorned his hus and his wifman so he macs himself a grene man who lifs in the holt hwit the treows
Jul 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Upon reading the 2014 Man Booker longlist announcement, I was immediately drawn to The Wake because of it's unique premise and because I believe it's the prize's first crowdsourced nomination. Sourced by readers? I had to give it a try.

What is perhaps the most unique about this novel, and needs to be mentioned, is the language. Written in a version of Old English created by the author for layman readers, I didn't know what to expect. But what I think should be made clear is that Paul Kingsnorth
Althea Ann
Dec 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
After the Norman invasion of England, the French ravage and burn. One man, Buccmaster, returns to his home to find nothing but ash, and his wife's body amidst the ruins.

He takes to the woods to become a 'green man' (an outlaw), with loud proclamations of his intention to raise a group to fight the French in revenge for all he has lost.

The story is told in Buccmaster's own words. From a narrative perspective, this means that he clearly tries to paint himself in the best light possible, seeking th
Gumble's Yard
Jan 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding novel about a landowner in Lincolnshire – Buccmaster of Holland – set in the years 1066-1068. Buccmaster, even before the Norman invasion, is apart from his fellow fen dwellers, still, like his grandfather but not his father, a follower of the Old Gods and a rejecter of the Church; also someone convinced he has through his Grandfather been chosen and marked out by the legendary blacksmith Weland (whose sword he believes he owns).

At the start of 1066 he believes he sees various ill o
3.5 – 4 stars

When we think of post-apocalyptic fiction we tend to think specifically of science fiction (or at least I know I do). Our vision is usually either of a near-future survival thriller about the fall of current human civilization into ruin (most often as the result of a nuclear holocaust, an ecological disaster, or more recently due to those pesky zombies), or of the far-future as we witness the after-effects on a society that has fallen into utter barbarity and ruin. We tend to see th
K.J. Charles

Written in a shadow version of 11th century English which is incredibly evocative, this is stark and brutal and magical. An invaded country, groups of men driven to the woods and fens, a land haunted by dying gods where Christianity is the first invader. Told by a magnificent creation, buccmaster of holland, an inarticulate, rage-filled, brutal man consumed by paranoia and self-doubt that expresses itself in visions of Odin as Wayland Smith.

This is a magnificent book. The author has
Jul 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Experimental fiction readers who usually shun the Booker; pagans; medieval historians
[4.5] I've always wanted historical fiction written like this. To feel like I was reading something of another, older world, but not hard work like Chaucer or Beowulf.

So I'd probably have read The Wake anyway, regardless of the Booker Prize - it's just that I only heard of it a day or two before the longlist announcement, via, I think, a Guardian comment from book blogger John Self (who has since reviewed the novel for The Times - behind paywall, haven't read it). At that point, when I looked a
I suspect if I read this again, it might get an extra star. I've certainly been thinking about it enough in the three weeks since I finished it. I tend to like the idea of experimental novels more than I like the execution, so this was a welcome exception to that. I thought it was marvellous.

When I look over my reading habits, they tend to ebb and flow in certain directions: The Wake for me hit the end-ish of a phase of playing with storytelling conventions, and the early blossoming of an enthus
Tom Lee
Jul 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Well, that was quite a leap. Can't say I've ever gone from one star to five before. But I revisited and finished this book, and it turns out to be the impressive achievement that its fans claim. It's a masterful stream of consciousness narrative told by a deeply unreliable narrator and one of the most compelling and chilling depictions of mental illness that I've ever read. It's also a beautifully crafted example of authorial subtlety -- not so easy from the first-person perspective -- that depl ...more
(3.5) This has just won the Bookseller book of the year award; I wish I could say I appreciated it more. Kingsnorth calls his Booker-longlisted fiction debut “a post-apocalyptic novel set 1000 years in the past.” Written in the author’s own version of Old English, the story traces the English guerrilla resistance movement that followed the Norman Conquest. This novel is hard work, requiring patience and effort from any reader. Prior experience of or interest in Old English chronicles would certa ...more
Book Riot Community
Kingsnorth’s novel was on the longlist for the 2014 Man Booker Prize, and it seemed to me the most interesting book in the bunch. I waited and waited for a US release until I couldn’t stand it any longer and ordered a copy from the UK–well worth the trouble. It tells of the aftermath of the Norman invasion of England in 1066, and it does it in its own “shadow tongue,” a modernized and easily intelligible version of the Old English that was spoken before our language got all Frenchified and Latin ...more
A brave and difficult novel, not merely for its use of a partially-reconstructed Old English as its narrative voice, but in making its central character so utterly unsympathetic. In his own mind a hero of the resistance effort against the invading Normans, "buccmaster of holland" is arrogant, self-pitying, deceitful, petty, vindictive, sadistic, boastful and cowardly. He's also almost certainly insane (the only possible alternative being that the ancient heathen gods of England, who he believes ...more
the night was clere though i slept i seen it. though i slept i seen the calm hierde naht only the still. when i gan down to sleep all was clere in the land and my dreams was full of stillness but my dreams did not cepe me still

when i woc in the mergen all was blaec though the night had gan and all wolde be blaec after and for all time. a great wind had cum in the night and all was blown then and broc. none had thought a wind lic this colde cum for all was blithe lifan as they always had and wh
Ian Mond
Nov 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
A month ago I decided that I wasn’t going to bother with The Wake.

After skimming the opening pages, and coming across words like “blaec” and “micel” and “fugol”, I’d concluded that I didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to deal with 100,000 words of pseudo Old English. As a compromise, I decided I would spend one day reading the book so I could write the sort of review that says less about the novel and more about the reviewer’s failings.

But when the day came and I started reading the novel I di
Brian Yatman
May 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The Wake was a deeply satisfying, completely immersive reading experience for me, and despite my growing realisation that the narrator was a bully, a liar, a coward, and probably a paranoid schizophrenic, I was kind of sad to leave the hate-filled confines of his head.

Buccmaster is a Dark Ages Travis Bickle, a self-styled visionary cast adrift in the ruins of Anglo-Saxon England after the Norman invasion. He talks to the old gods, plots revolution, procrastinates, struts about with his grandfat
Paul Fulcher
Oct 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015, goldsmiths-2014
"when I woc in the mergen all was blaec through the night had gan and all wolde be blaec after and for all time. a great wind had cum in the night and all was blown then and broc. none had thought a wind lic this colde cum for all was blithe lifan as they always had and who will hiere the gleoman when the tales he tells is blaec who locs at the heofan if it bring him regn who locs in the mere when there seems no end to its deopness"

Paul Kingsnorth's The Wake, published in 2014, was longlisted fo
Brendan Monroe
For a truly immersive experience, I highly recommend "The Wake". Paul Kingsnorth's extraordinary novel practically begs to be adapted into a film by Mel Gibson. All the classic Gibsonian qualities are here.

1. Characters speaking a dead language? Check.

2. Story of the decline/fall of a people? Check.

3. Post-Norman Conquest English Kings cast as treacherous villains? Check.

Think "Braveheart" crossed with "Apocalypto" and you've got "The Wake".

As an English Major, I had to take a class that require
Stephen Kelly
Aug 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 21st-century, england
What's strangest about this book isn't that it's written in an ersatz extinct language, it's that the narrator ends up being the most unlikable character in the entire novel. The "shadow" Anglo Saxon isn't just a gimmick; this isn't merely an historical account of heroic Anglo underdogs fighting against Norman invaders--no simple RETURN OF THE JEDI set in twelfth century fenns. No, Kingsnorth overturns such a premise and instead crafts a rather complex and thought-provoking examination of imperi ...more
Oct 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Not efry man the boc wolde lic, for it is deorc lic a holt in a night with no mona and blaec and deop lic the mere ofer the stoccs of treows hwer the eald gods lifd befor the hwit crist cum.

I must admit that I was somewhat skeptical of a novel written in a "shadow language" meant to produce the feeling of Old English without the frustrations of having to master its complex grammar, unfamiliar phonology, and obscure orthography. The more I read, however, the more comfortable I became with the art
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would have never believed that I would enjoy reading a book taking place during the Norman invasion of Britain AND it's told through a modified form of Old English.

The Buccmaster of Holland is living well. He has two sons, a lot of land, a huge house and a loving wife. Then after the Battle of Hastings, he loses everything and decides to put together a band of mercenaries to kill all French citizens.

However there are some problems, the main one is that The Buccmaster is stuck to the old ways i
Laura Hutchinson
Oct 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I've never read anything like this book before - except in my university days when I laboured over pages from the Anglo Saxon Chronicle which made little or no impact on me. The concept that Paul Kingsnorth has come up with - to devise a 'shadow tongue' somewhere between Anglo Saxon and modern English, is extra-ordinary, and makes the book feel instantly more real than hundreds of pages of description setting up life for a farmer in the Fens in the 11th century.

It's not just the language which i
Jun 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
‘The Wake’ is a demanding novel to read and, honestly, I was tempted to give up on it after fifty pages. It wasn’t so much the language, but the fact that nothing much occurred except the narrator Buccmaster seemed annoyingly UKIPpish. Once William came a-conquering, however, the narrative became darker and more eventful, and Buccmaster much more interesting. It’s Kingsnorth’s invention of a hybrid old English, though, that makes this a distinctive and beguiling read. As he states in his afterwo ...more
Oct 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
I want to push this book into the face of everyone who ever tried to write historical fiction with stylized language. I want to shout THIS, THIS IS HOW IT SHOULD BE DONE. See, I hate when writers try to give the language a historical feel by peppering the narrative with anachronisms. It just doesn't work. It comes off as shallow and unnecessary. But "The Wake"? Excuse me when I'm jumping around in enthusiasm for this linguistic feast. "The Wake" conveys the (assumed) way of thinking in Old Engla ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Jul 29, 2014 marked it as did-not-finish
I tried getting into the pattern of this faux Middle English but my head had other things in mind. Headaches, mainly.

It's an interesting gimmick but I have started thinking there should be a separate award for experimental fiction and linguistic inventions. And it shouldn't be the Booker.


I recently read The Elements of Style Illustrated and here is one fast and relevant rule:

"20. Avoid foreign languages.

The writer will occasionally find it convenient or necessary to borrow from other languag
Dec 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
boern angland.
most notable for its style (give it about 25 pages to sink in), the anger at loss of identity really had an affect on me. the story could have been better to match the powerful language. still quite an experience.
And I thought "Wolf Hall" was a load of pretentious crap! It's got nothing on this one. ...more
Kelly W.
I'm a medievalist specializing in Old English literature, so imagine my delight when I found that this book existed. I picked it up after reading about it on another website, and I figured I'd jump in and finish it before any of my colleagues could start. Overall, I found the book to be an ambitious project and one that definitely presents a challenge for the casual reader; but I also found it to be lacking in some areas such as characterization and narrative.

Things I Liked:

1. Language: The Wake
Nov 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Written in what Kingsnorth describes as a shadow version of old English, "The Wake" is an interesting book about the aftermath of the Norman invasion of England, as well as the Saxon resistance. It takes a while to get into the flow of the language, though it's worth the effort, but that effort is an obstacle to easy reading. (In a way, it's like the effort required to read William Golding's "The Inheritors" or Burgess's "A Clockwork Orange," though the language in "The Wake" is essentially real ...more
This book advertised itself as a post-apocalyptic novel set 1000 years in the past. It's written in a "shadow tongue", aka a version of modern English that's been distorted so that it gives the feel of Old English while still being readable. (A friend recommended it to me because I liked Riddley Walker.)

Ultimately, I think I liked the premise of this book better than the execution. I found the "shadow tongue" somewhat difficult to read (more difficult than Riddley Walker), and I found the plot r
Aug 28, 2015 rated it liked it
Like us all I persevered with the language to enjoy the author's aim to transport us to a different time and thinking. But throughout I was thinking this is all made up to give us a flavour of a pre-Norman world, to trick us into thinking it was authentic in its story telling... But ultimately it was all made up... Chicken flavoured soup.... No chicken.

Booker prize long-listed, it will have its fans and rightly so... A challenging read, tasking the reader, different perspective, bravo to the au
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Paul Kingsnorth is an English writer and thinker. He is a former deputy-editor of The Ecologist and a co-founder of the Dark Mountain Project. He lives in the west of Ireland.

He studied modern history at Oxford University, where he was also heavily involved in the road protest movement of the early 1990s.

After graduating, Paul spent two months in Indonesia working on conservation projects in Borne

Other books in the series

Buccmaster Trilogy (3 books)
  • Beast
  • Alexandria

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“upon a hyll stands a treow but this treow it has no stics no leafs. its stocc is gold on it is writhan lines of blud red it reacces to the heofon its roots is deop deop in the eorth. abuf the hyll all the heofon is hwit and below all the ground is deorc. the treow is scinan and from all places folcs is walcan to it walcan to the scinan treow locan for sum thing from it. abuf the tree flies a raefn below it walcs a wulf and deop in the eorth where no man sees around the roots of the treow sleeps a great wyrm and this wyrm what has slept since before all time this wyrm now slow slow slow this wyrm begins to mof” 8 likes
“aefry ember of hope gan lic the embers of a fyr brocen in the daegs beginnan brocen by men other than us. hope falls harder when the end is cwic hope falls harder when in the daegs before the storm the stillness of the age was writen in the songs of men so it is when a world ends who is thu i can not cnaw but i will tell thu this thing be waery of the storm be most waery when there is no storm in sight” 5 likes
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