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Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  67,768 ratings  ·  8,745 reviews
One of Poland's most imaginative and lyrical writers, Olga Tokarczuk presents us with a detective story with a twist in DRIVE YOUR PLOW OVER THE BONES OF THE DEAD. After her two dogs go missing and members of the local hunting club are found murdered, teacher and animal rights activist Janina Duszejko becomes involved in the ensuing investigation. Part magic realism, part ...more
Paperback, 268 pages
Published September 26th 2018 by Fitzcarraldo Editions (first published November 25th 2009)
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Robert Blumenthal I also hate descriptions of cruelty to animals or humans, and I loved this book. I personally had some difficulty with the novel On Earth We Are Brief…moreI also hate descriptions of cruelty to animals or humans, and I loved this book. I personally had some difficulty with the novel On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous for this reason. This is a novel that is very much against the hunting of animals by humans. I did not find it discomforting at all.(less)
Julie Falsetti This is one of the best books I've read in about five years, and I read a lot of books.…moreThis is one of the best books I've read in about five years, and I read a lot of books.(less)

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Oh, YES.

Literary, quirky, snarky, noir. Asks the same questions that Dostoevsky asks in Crime and Punishment - who has the right to live? who has the right to kill? and what's the difference between a poacher and a hunter, anyway? (that last question is Tokarczuk's, not Dostoevsky's....)

These questions are asked in a most unique way. A middle aged woman in rural Poland, a woman who is best described as eccentric (obsessed with astrology, plagued by "ailments" both physical and psychological), fi
Michael Finocchiaro
Never underestimate the strength and fortitude of middle-age ladies. What makes this novel stand out is precisely its unusual protagonist: single, eccentric, living in the woods with her astrology. A woman we would pass on the street and ignore, like many do in the telling of the tale, much to their own disadvantage...

Janine hates her name and loves giving her own names to folks in her life:
The naming of Big Foot occured in a similar way. It was quite straightforward - it suggested itself to me
I've carried some William Blake verses around in a pocket of my memory for years. To say I studied them at school is probably not quite accurate since I don't remember anything I learned about Auguries of Innocence. All the same, Blake's verses lent themselves to memorizing better than many others, and so they stuck fast in my idiosyncratic mind. I loved them so much that I once inscribed a verse from Blake on a friend's birthday card convinced that To see a World in a Grain of Sand, and a Heave ...more
Sep 20, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: slavic
Natural Justice

Hypocrisy allows us to remain alive. Without it we would be forced to recognise the misery we endure and the misery we inflict. So we lie; we make evil, even if it’s necessary evil, into virtue. Untruthfulness is re-branded as ‘discretion.’ Exploitation becomes ‘providing employment.’ Nationalism hides behind a mask of religious faith. And environmental destruction is promoted as a divine right which human beings have an obligation to honour. As Mrs Janina Duszejko, Civil Engineer
Spencer Orey
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The most unintentionally metal title ever??

I really enjoyed this one. I found the main character (an old woman who's obsessed with astrology but is also a pretty bad astrologer) really lovable. I mostly loved her point of view and all her little quirks.

There's a good murder mystery here and a deep meditation about our relationship to animals and hunting. Sometimes in the novel, this is direct (conversations like who are we to kill animals or judge which ones deserve to live?) and sometimes it’s
Diane S ☔
Oct 10, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lor-2019
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 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, b
Aug 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Now shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2019

This is the second book by Olga Tokarczuk to be published in translation by Fitzcarraldo Editions. The previous one Flights deservedly won this year's Man Booker International prize and is my favourite of all the books I have read this year. This one is very different but just as interesting - in some ways it is closer in spirit to Primeval and Other Times, the second Tokarczuk novel to be translated into English.

The translation is by An
Drive Your Plow has been described as one of Olga Tokarczuk's lighter novels, written between the experimental Flights and The Books of Jacob (as she said in this interview) - but this literary crime story, narrated by an eccentric animal-lover in her 60s, is still full of ideas.

Some things were easy to say about the book.

It has gorgeous descriptions of nature.

In this it's similar to the writing of Andrzej Stasiuk, another major contemporary Polish author who, like Olga Tokarczuk, left Warsaw
Sep 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you’ve got a bit of Jane Goodall in you (as I do), try this off-beat thriller. The humor is subtle and the style beautifully stripped down. The writing exhibits a mastery of tone and narrative pacing that induced wonder and admiration in this reader.

Our storyteller is an elderly woman who, living alone in a rural area of Poland between Wrocław and the Czech border, is awakened in the dead of night by her neighbor, Oddball, to be told that another neighbor, Big Foot, is dead. The woman is ecce
Jenna ❤ ❀  ❤
Apr 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jenna by: Kathleen
~Most memorable main character in a book this year~

This was a different sort of novel with a different sort of heroine: A quirky, eccentric old lady who is not taken seriously by the authorities, even when a series of dead bodies turn up in their small village in Poland. She claims to have proof that it is the Animals (they're always capitalized when she speaks) taking revenge on the hunters, and backs up her claims by doing intricate astrological charts for the deceased, showing how their murde
May 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
When a victim is found with deerprints all around him, it seems entirely feasible that animals are committing murder.

I've finally found a murder mystery I could love. An elderly woman does battle with toxic patriarchal arrogance and self-entitlement, personified by the bloodthirsty hunting culture which prevails over her native area.

The novel is set in a bleak winter landscape in a remote part of Poland and narrated by a maverick elderly woman, a retired bridge engineer, who lives alone, studie
Peter Boyle
This unconventional tale is set in rural Poland, close to the Czech border. Janina is an middle-aged woman who looks after a bunch of holiday homes in the mountains. She is quite an eccentric individual, obsessed with astrology and preferring to call people by nicknames she invents. When her crotchety neighbour Big Foot dies unexpectedly one night, she helps her other neighbour Oddball dress the corpse. However in the weeks that follow, more bodies start turning up, and the police are mystified. ...more
Sam Quixote
Apr 29, 2019 rated it did not like it
Hunters is dying in the Polish hills - animals getting revenge? Dat’s what totally not nutso old laydee Janina thinks!

This was my first and last time reading anything by award-winning (was the award for Giantest Poop Published That Year?) Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk - Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead’s premise kinda sounds like a supernatural murder mystery but it’s not. It’s basically just a screwball old lady muttering her disapproval of hunters and hunting in general while witteri
Dear Olga.
Things are not working out between us. I have consulted my star charts and it reveals that my third house is blocked by a giant cosmic loom. While I can now weave cosmic carpets, it also unfortunately makes me immune to your charms. Perhaps if I had been reading this while Mercury was ascending or by the light of a gibbous moon things might have worked out better ?
For now I must find a way out of my third house and take Flight(s) to greener pastures.

P.S I tried, I really tried.
Oct 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nobel, polish
For every thing that lives is Holy.

I’ve thought long and hard what to make of the lead protagonist, one Janina Duszejko, an eccentric woman on the cusp of old age living in an isolated hamlet surrounded by mountains and forests along the Polish-Czech border; a woman whose love for animals surpasses everything she might feel for her fellow human beings, and who believes that the apparently defenceless animals possess the means and the intelligence to take revenge on the humans who inflict cruelty
Olga Tokarczuk’s novel is many-layered. There’s the obvious layer in which Janina Dusezjkl’s neighbor and community hunters are dying. In this very obvious layer, Dusezjkl is an older woman, who lives on the outside of community, having a few friends that are also considered outsiders, Oddball, Dizzy, and Good News. She frequently refers to astrology and has an intense bond with animals. She decries what she considers the waste of animal life through hunting.

“The nastiest criminal has a soul, b

For every thing that lives is Holy.

The action of the novel, the title could be translated as a quote from Blake’s Drive Your Plough over the Bones of the Dead, takes place in a remote mountain settlement in the beautiful Kotlina Kłodzka. That quiet, tranquil location suddenly is a place of murders of local hunters, with only animals’ tracks left on the crime scene. Revange of the game?

This one was promoted as an ecological and moral thriller with strong feministic and anarchic accents. But you c
Initially I pictured this story taking place over a century ago, so I was thrown for a loop when I realized that the setting is modern day.

"Pros" about this story:
1. A character-driven mystery! Janina Duszejko, the protagonist, comes off sounding like an eccentric old crackpot to the villagers (and probably to some readers), but I found her rather likeable! I loved her subtle sense-of-humor, and I had a personal affinity for her experiences as an older person. Her thoughts that being a teacher i
Jo (The Book Geek)
This book was an oddity, but it hit a few of the right notes for me. I had never heard of Olga Tokarczuk until I saw this book knocking about on goodreads, and I bought it purely because of the title. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead is a unique title, and made me immediately want it.

I actually liked Janina, the main character, and it was interesting that the story went on inside her head, but as the plot thickened, it became somewhat tiresome, and I craved things from another perspect
Emily B
Apr 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The writing in this novel was both hypnotic and poetic. So much so that whenever astrology was mentioned I found myself very relaxed, almost to a frisson or asmr state.

When reading I often think about the writer, I imagine them trying to write the character’s narrative and become the character. However in this case I didn’t so much. The way in which the protagonist viewed the world was eccentric but also charming, while the narrative felt natural and authentic.

When reading it felt like a 4 sta
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Janina= gift of god, god's grace.
No wonder Mrs Duszejko rejects her given name as unsuitable.
One has to tell people what to think. There's no alternative. Otherwise someone else will do it.

Think about that. As we are instructed in the first chapter's heading: NOW PAY ATTENTION.
See? there is an alternative. Someone else will do it.
There's more, so much more (obviously!), no I don't just mean more words, more pages, I mean more that made me gurgle with laughter and delight.
He came to me i
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
Now shortlisted for the 2020 International Dublin Literary Award.

I am hoping this is not the book cited for her Nobel Prize win.

Why is it that old women … women of your age are so concerned about animals? Aren’t there any people left to take care of?

I could sense his disgust as he ... cast negative judgement on my taste

This book is a noir style mystery novel written by the author of the Man Booker International winning Flights – and at first the clear mystery that the reader is faced with i
Oct 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Update: Just to state that I have now seen the film version mentioned below and it is INCREDIBLE!! Beautifully adapted, directed, acted and the cinematography is exquisite.

What an unexpected delight - I was wary of the most recent Nobel Prize winner, as I had heard how difficult Flights was, so thought this shorter book might be a better introduction to her oeuvre. But for sure I wasn't expecting this bleak, but very clever take on the murder mystery, complete with the most unreliable of narrato
Mar 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, 2019
Okay, Olga Tokarczuk. I get it now. I had no idea what type of book would be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, but this left quite the impression. All I can say is that this novel had maybe the best payoff for any book I remember reading.

I absolutely adore (Janina) Duszejko. Her character just became more and more likable to me as the story went on. With every new idiosyncrasy revealed, I was increasingly enamored. By the end there was really nothing that she could do which would turn me o
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead is a strange little novel, one which I find myself at a loss to describe. It’s sort of a murder mystery, but mostly it’s a character study about Janina, an astrology fanatic with a bone to pick about illegal hunting in her sleepy part of rural Poland.

In an odd way, this novel reminded me of Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle. The two books (and their authors) are very different in terms of plot and tone and writing style, but I think o
Katia N
May 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
It is the first novel I’ve read by Olga Tokarzchuk and I’ve read it in Ukrainian - the closest to the original Polish from the languages I know.

So-called ironic detectives were very popular in Eastern Europe in the 90s. It was sort of sub-genre normally written by a woman with a female protagonist investigating a certain mystery. But the main feature in those books was their ability to make you laugh out loud and their reading accessibility. I remember my favourite books from this genre were by
Jan 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Have you lost your minds? Or your hearts? Have you still got hearts?"

Are thoughts that might be called insane by some, often the saner or more ethical, and what is accepted as sane thinking, sometimes insanity?

Mrs. D. ( I dare not call her Janina) is an older woman of many dimensions. Living in an area outside a small Polish village she seems content with her life, except for her abhorrence of hunting and its disregard for life. She is a caretaker of local homes, nurturer of children and plants
Aug 14, 2021 rated it liked it
Entertaining, although the central murder mystery has a very clear resolution from early on in the book. The love of animals and morality of our usage of them is well executed, as is the way we as society don’t take old people serious.
’You know what, sometimes it seems to me we’re living in a world that we fabricate for ourselves. We decide what’s good and what isn’t, we draw maps of meanings for ourselves… And then we spend our whole lives struggling with what we have invented for ourselves. Th
Abbie | ab_reads
Thank you SO much @fitzcarraldoeditions for sending me this lovely copy of Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead - I absolutely loved it and I wouldn’t be surprised if Tokarczuk nabbed the Man Booker International Prize for the second year running. She’s certainly found a new fan in me, and I’ll be seeking out her other books.
Described as a subversive, eco-thriller, Drive Your Plow follows Janina (but she doesn’t consider that her real name) Duszejko as she recounts the disappearance of he
Kevin Kelsey
Mar 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2020
“But why should we have to be useful, and for what reason? Who divided the world into useless and useful, and by what right? Does a thistle have no right to life, or a Mouse that eats the grain in a warehouse? What about Bees and Drones, weeds and roses? Whose intellect can have had the audacity to judge who is better, and who worse? A large tree, crooked and full of holes, survives for centuries without being cut down, because nothing could possibly be made out of it. This example should rai ...more
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Olga Tokarczuk is one of Poland's most celebrated and beloved authors, a winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Man Booker International Prize, as well as her country's highest literary honor, the Nike. She is the author of eight novels and two short story collections, and has been translated into more than thirty languages.

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