The Wake

wake-cover‘Has a fierceness about it that gives it real heft … a literary triumph.’ Adam Thorpe, The Guardian

‘Strange and extraordinary … this unusual novel has power. It lingers in the imagination.’ The Times

‘As disturbing as it is empathetic, as beautiful as it is riveting.’ Eimear McBride, New Statesman

‘An astonishing accomplishment.’ Geoff Dyer

‘A masterpiece. My top book of the year.’ Eleanor Catton, winner of the 2013 Man Booker Prize

‘Reading Kingsnorth’s book is to be immersed in the past and in a story in a way that I haven’t really felt since childhood … the most glorious experience I’ve had with a book in years.’ Lucy Mangan, The Guardian

‘Extraordinary,’ Philip Pullman

‘A resonant, eloquent ballad of English identity, pride and fierce independence. It is a thrilling story. Read it out loud. It is like nothing else.’ Mark Rylance

My first novel, set during the Norman invasion of 1066, won the 2014 Gordon Burn Prize and the Bookseller Book of the Year Award, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Folio Prize and the Desmond Elliott Prize, and was shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize.

The Wake is a historical novel set in the deep mythic past. It is hung carefully on the known historical facts about the almost forgotten, decade-long war of underground resistance which spread across England in the decade after 1066. Most importantly – certainly most strangely – it is written entirely in its own language: my interpretation of Old English, recreated for modern eyes and ears.

The Wake is an ageless story of the collapse of certainties and lives; a tale of lost gods and haunted visions, narrated by a man of the Lincolnshire fens bearing witness to the end of his world. It was published in April 2014 by Unbound.

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  • Jan Nary

    Dear Paul – I should probably wait until I’ve finished reading The Wake before writing to you but heck, I might get hit by a bus or fall off a cliff or something and never get to tell you how much I’m reveling in your masterpiece. I’m not sure whether you’ve created him or remembered him but he lives, this savage-mouthed prophet who just leaps out of the pages at me every time I open the book. I can’t remember ever having felt so physically involved with a character and the urge to interpose myself between him and what’s coming would be risible if it weren’t so powerful. It’s not a book to be read on public transport; like Beowulf it demands to read aloud and like Beowulf just the mouthfeel of the language is sensual and hungry and wonderful. (I don’t know Old English, I just like reading Beowulf for the joy of the rhythm and sound. And unlike Beowulf, your language is readily accessible and immediately draws one into the tribe.)
    Thank you. Thank you so much for such a splendid history. I’ll probably write again when I get to the end and find out who wins…
    PS I dabble in theatre and wonder if The Wake has ever been adapted for stage? It’d be a knockout.

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