The Wake, Paperback Book
2.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


Winner of the Gordon Burn Prize 2014 and The Bookseller Industry Book of the Year Award 2015.

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Desmond Elliott Prize and the Folio Prize and shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize. A post-apocalyptic novel set a thousand years ago, The Wake tells the story of Buccmaster of Holland, a free farmer of Lincolnshire, owner of three oxgangs, a man clinging to the Old Gods as the world changes drastically around him.

After losing his sons at the Battle of Hastings and his wife and home to the invading Normans, Buccmaster begins to gather together a band of 'grene men', who take up arms to resist their brutal invaders.

Written in a 'shadow tongue' - a version of Old English updated so as to be understandable for the modern reader - The Wake is a landmark in historical fiction and looks set to become a modern classic.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Cornerstone
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Historical fiction
  • ISBN: 9781783520985

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Review by

To quote a section on the back of the book, <em>"Written in what the author calls 'A shadow tongue' - a version of Old English updated so as to be understandable for the modern reader - The Wake is a landmark in historical fiction and looks set to become a modern classic."</em>I didn't get far, a mere few tens of pages, and faced with three hundred and fifty, I put it down. It takes concentration to interpret the shadow tongue, and I found it interfering with my pace of reading. The first few pages were like wading through treacle, but the rhythm did start to come; it entailed more listening to the words rather than reading them, if that makes sense.<em>----- when we was in the brunnesweld nebbs all blaec hydan in the grene holt lic the afeart bucc oft i was thincan of my grandfather. a great man he was strong in all he wilde weep to see what angland has becum. efen he strong man that he was wolde weep lie a cilde to see us hidan there runnan from ingengas in our own land that is no longer our own land.-----</em> In "A Note On Language" at the back, the author writes, <em>"What we now call Old English was the language of the English people until the invasion of 1066, when it rapidly began to mutate with the arrival of Norman French, the language of the new ruling class. This novel is not written in Old English - that would be unreadable to anyone except scholars. It is written instead in what might be called a shadow tongue - a pseudo-language intended to convey the feeling of the old language by combining some of its vocabulary and syntax with the English we speak today."</em>It also includes a couple of pages of a partial glossary; but I couldn't come to terms with this. I don't think I'll come back to this; certainly with the pace of modern life as it currently is. The book requires an effort that I currently can not give it. My mind is too full of work and other business, to be able to quieten it to the degree where I can listen to the rhythm and hear the story.

Review by

An extraordinary book, telling the story of a "green man" resisting the Norman conquest with a small band of guerrillas in the Lincolnshire fens and surrounding woodlands. Written in a hybrid language that mixes Anglo-Saxon words and spellings with just enough modern English to make it readable, it is a bloodthirsty elegy for the England that was lost, and is also fascinating for its linguistic insights.

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