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Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  7,662 ratings  ·  1,024 reviews

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,
Hardcover, 274 pages
Published August 13th 2019 by Riverhead Books (first published November 25th 2009)
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Judy I just finished it and drove straight to the library to get another of her books. I found it to be extremely well written and interesting.....the…moreI just finished it and drove straight to the library to get another of her books. I found it to be extremely well written and interesting.....the story, the characters, and ideas that matter.(less)
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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 Heaven ...more
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
Diane S ☔
Oct 10, 2019 rated it liked it
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,
Sep 20, 2019 rated it liked it
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
Spencer Orey
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Oct 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: polish, fiction, nobel
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

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
Sep 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you’re fond of animals, 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 eccentric, but intelligent and
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, poland
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 in
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
A subversive feminist noir mystery set in a remote Polish village, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead both dazzles and defies categorization. Olga Tokarczuk’s seventh novel (her fourth to be translated into English) follows Janina Duszejko, an elderly woman living as a recluse on the outskirts of a Polish town close to the Czech border, who spends her days reading horoscopes and translating the poetry of William Blake. But it’s a far cry from an idyllic life for Janina, whose beloved ...more
Sam Quixote
Apr 29, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Man Booker International Prize Longlist 2019. Tokarczuk’s murder mystery takes place in a remote village along the Polish-Czech Republic border. Janina Duszejko is a former bridge engineer and currently a schoolteacher teaching English to young children. This elderly character is a candidate for PETA membership, explains life through her study of astrology, and works with one of her neighbors translating the poetry of William Blake. This is one quirky character! Oh yes, and she also seems to be ...more
Oct 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5, rounded up.

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 narrators. There is really so much going on beneath the surface story, and although most of the Blake-ian imagery went over my head, and I didn't cotton much to
Nobel Prize 2018 Winner!

What a bizarre novel! Janina Dusezjko is a delightfully twisted Miss Marple type who lives in a remote forest cabin in Poland, near the Czech border. She’s determined to learn the truth of what happened to her two beloved dogs, whom she calls her Little Girls. When four different men who were involved in local hunting – her unpleasant neighbor, a deer poacher whom she nicknamed Big Foot; a police commandant; a fox farm owner; and the president of the mushroom
Feb 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: polish, tokarczuk
Would you abet a murder? I don’t mean to actually commit a murder. But could you abet one? You know, could you acquiesce, encourage, look the other way? Do you have it in you to obfuscate when authorities ask? Might you be an accessory after the fact, and warn of pursuit?

‘If you smear this substance on a piece of wood, the female beetles will rush there to lay their eggs. They’ll come running to this particular log from all over the area – they can smell it from several kilometres away.’
Gumble's Yard
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 is how the author of such a complex, lengthy, erudite and Sebaldesque
Sep 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It’s a strange story, like a bad dream, isn’t it?

After about 30 pages of this book, I was talking to my son about it and I told him it felt to me very much like a Coen brothers movie (he is an avid reader and has a degree in film studies so books and movies often crop up when we talk): it is darkly comic but also sad, it skips around genres (especially comedy, thriller and noir - a jumble of genres), it has memorably eccentric characters and it has a plot that is almost but not quite something
Katia N
May 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Caro the Helmet Lady
One of the best Books I've read this year. I'm not able to write a decent review about it because I liked it so much. Also, it had so many things inside, it's like this little Pandora's box - once you open it the stuff starts to jump and fly out and crawl out of it and you just watch it happening till the box gets empty. Also, the language was hypnotic and beautiful. Tough job for translator, I guess. I recommend to read it for yourself if or when you can get a copy - you might hate it or you ...more
Joy D
This book is an atypical mystery where the focus is not so much on a string of disappearances and deaths as on the state of mind of the first-person narrator, Mrs. Duszejko (Mrs. D), a sixty-something woman who lives in a rural Polish village and attempts to “assist” the investigators. It starts with a neighbor’s death from choking but promptly moves into a close examination of Mrs. D’s inner world. She is a former engineer, currently working as a teacher of English and assisting a former ...more
Aug 01, 2019 rated it liked it
I chose to read this book because I heard it was short-listed for the Man Booker prize and I had heard of Olga Tokarczuk, but had not read anything by her. This book was interesting because it really took place mostly in the main character, Janina's, head. Janina, though she doesn't want to be called that, lives alone in a rural village in Poland. She has a few friends, teaches part-time at the local school, studies astrology, and is a devoted animal lover. Janina also takes care of several ...more
♥ Sandi ❣
3 stars Thanks to Edelweiss and Riverhead Books Publishing for the chance to read this ARC. Published August 13, 2019. This is a translated book. Originally written in Polish.

This book was so confusing for me. There were parts that I really liked and parts that frankly bored me. There were times I was happy with this book, and times I was unhappy with it. I often wonder what, if anything, gets lost in a translated book. There were no big gaps or quick turn-arounds in this book, as would be
Sidharth Vardhan
*winner of Nobel prize*

There can be spoilers in here for it is supposed to be a whodunit, though the whodunit is so painfully that calling it a whodunit seems to be a crime against humanity.

This book employs a theme that is close to me and seems to be explored more and more often by writers worldwide - that of cruelty towards animals and how it has become ingrained in our lifestyle and how little a thought we spare to it. ‘Black Beauty’ is the first novel I remember that explores this theme and
Bob  Brinkmeyer
Oct 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
At the heart of Olga Tokarczuk’s Drive Your Plow Over the Bones is a series of mysterious murders that take place in a remote Polish village. As the death toll mounts and the murders get more and more strange and gruesome, the narrator, Janina, gets progressively drawn into the investigation. She’s something of a strange duck—an older woman given to reclusiveness, astrology, William Blake, and the beauty and wonder of animals. She’s also a sharp-eyed, no-nonsense observer of herself and her ...more
Eric Anderson
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I tried reading Olga Tokarczuk novel “Flights” last year. I really tried. But, although I could appreciate what an engaged and intelligent writer Olga Tokarczuk is, I just wasn’t enjoying the book's fragmented nature. So after 60 pages I regretfully shelved it to try again another day. Therefore, I was so delighted when I immediately connected much more easily with the story and protagonist of her most recent translated novel “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead”. Here a ...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Here's a performative contradiction. You can call me out on it.

This book is neither good enough nor bad enough to have an opinion about. While her flights was bad enough to really get under my craw and really not want to write a Take=Down, this one was just dull. Why that and this are getting Major Awards and LongList'ing is just beyond me. Maybe her yet untrans'd Jakob book is worth it, but I just... I'm in that Awards Shock state again and still. Like what happens 80% of the times when I read
Oct 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mbi-2019
[4.5] Revisits continue, as do high ratings. Olga Tokarczuk’s magnificent Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead (translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones) found its way to the Man Booker International 2019 longlist, even though the author won the prize last year with Flights, a much wider book in its scope compared to the more focused follow-up. I read Drive Your Plow in September last year amid the hassle of a new job and never got around to thinking about it in detail. I did write a short review ...more
Paul Fulcher
Book 1/13 for me from the Man Booker International longlist

Flights by Olga Tokarczuk , translated by Jennifer Croft was one of my favourite books of 2017. It won the Man Booker International but also, a day earlier, our Shadow Man Booker International prize and it was a pleasure to meet the two writers and award them the prize in person.



So I was looking forward to Drive your Plow over the Bones of the Dead, albeit with reservations caused by two things:

Firstly, this Guardian interview (
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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.
“Nie, nie ludzie w naszym kraju nie mają umiejętności zrzeszania się i tworzenia wspólnoty, nawet pod sztandarem prawdziwka. To kraj neurotycznych indywidualistów, z których każdy, gdy tylko znajdzie się wśród innych, zaczyna ich pouczać, krytykować, obrażać i okazywać im swoją niewątpliwą wyższość.” 15 likes
“O kraju świadczą jego Zwierzęta. Stosunek do Zwierząt. Jeżeli ludzie zachowują się bestialsko wobec Zwierząt, nie pomoże im żadna demokracja ani w ogóle nic.” 11 likes
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