Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

The Western Wind

by Samantha Harvey

Hailed as “this generation’s Virginia Woolf” (Telegraph) and “one of the UK’s most exquisite stylists” (Guardian), Samantha Harvey’s breathtaking new novel is a medieval mystery told in reverse over the course of several disquieting holy days.

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 320
  • Publication Date October 15, 2019
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4772-1
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $16.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 304
  • Publication Date November 13, 2018
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2828-7
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $26.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date November 13, 2018
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4653-3
  • US List Price $0.00

An extraordinary new novel by Samantha Harvey—whose books have been nominated for the Man Booker Prize, the Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize), and the Guardian First Book Award—The Western Wind is a riveting story of faith, guilt, and the freedom of confession.

It’s 1491. In the small village of Oakham, its wealthiest and most industrious resident, Tom Newman, is swept away by the river during the early hours of Shrove Saturday. Was it murder, suicide, or an accident? Narrated from the perspective of local priest John Reve—patient shepherd to his wayward flock—a shadowy portrait of the community comes to light through its residents’ tortured revelations. As some of their darkest secrets are revealed, the intrigue of the unexplained death ripples through the congregation. But will Reve, a man with secrets of his own, discover what happened to Newman? And what will happen if he can’t?

Written with timeless eloquence, steeped in the spiritual traditions of the Middle Ages, and brimming with propulsive suspense, The Western Wind finds Samantha Harvey at the pinnacle of her outstanding novelistic power.

Praise for The Western Wind

“Beautifully rendered, deeply affecting, thoroughly thoughtful and surprisingly prescient . . . Harvey’s is a story of suspense, yes. It is a story of a community crowded with shadows and secrets. But to read this novel is to experience a kind of catharsis. In John Reve, a 15th-century priest at war with his instincts and inclinations and at times even with his own flock, we find a kind of Everyman, and Harvey delivers a singular character at once completely unfamiliar and wholly universal.”—New York Times Book Review

“Harvey weaves a dazzling tapestry around loss and confession in late-15th-century England in this breathtaking novel… The lush period details and acute psychological insight will thrill fans of literary mysteries and historical fiction. Utterly engrossing.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Harvey evokes the darkness of both winter and spirit with stark yet lovely imagery… This compulsively readable portrait of doubt and faith reveals, in small lives, humanity’s biggest questions.”—Booklist (starred review)

“A dazzling, challenging read.”—Kirkus Reviews

“A medieval whodunnit… less like reading a novel and more akin to time travel — something I’ve only previously encountered in the work of Hilary Mantel.”—Financial Times

“Rich and complex . . . It’s hard not be riveted.”—Observer

“A medieval mystery from one of the UK’s most exquisite stylists.”—Guardian

“Startling and energizing… must be in the running for the year’s best novels.”—The Spectator

“A rich and sumptuous delight… the language manages to be both luminously lyrical and endlessly sharp.”—Telegraph

“A transportive meditation on faith, choice, and community. Harvey’s novel is set in a rural 1491 village in England following priest, John Reve, as he helps his parish grapple with a mysterious death in the holy days leading up to Lent. The dingy village of Oakham immediately grabs and grounds the reader in a tactile sense of place – bitter winds, beating rain, thick mud, stale bread, dim candles, and so much repressed desire. The story unfolds in reverse over four days in a way that feels essential and never a confusing or cheap gimmick. THE WESTERN WIND is one of the best books I’ve read this year; a sumptuous philosophical mystery with style and substance in equal measure. Read it!” —Caleb Masters, Bookmarks (North Carolina)

“My book of the year . . . It is quite unlike anything else I have read . . . Samantha Harvey is not half as well-known as she should be . . . This, her fourth novel, deserves to break her through to a wider audience . . . The truly extraordinary thing about this novel is the way Harvey re-creates the mindset and beliefs of the medieval world, and makes the concerns of 500 years ago vivid and immediate.”—Alice O’Keeffe, The Bookseller

“Set in the 1400s but never feeling dusty or distant, this astonishing book is at once a rollicking mystery and profound meditation on fait and existence.”—Alex Preston, Guardian (Best Fiction for 2018)

“An immersive 15th-century mystery, Samantha Harvey’s The Western Wind explores the value and vagaries of faith and the nature of secrets: the ones we confess and the ones we hide even from ourselves. John Reve, spiritual advisor to the residents of the hardscrabble English village of Oakham, relates the story in reverse chronology over four days before Lent. It’s a structure that Harvey uses to good effect in deftly building quiet suspense. Reve’s superior, a rural dean, arrives in Oakham to investigate the drowning of Thomas Newman, a wealthy resident who was both admired and relied on by the community. Though Reve suggests the death was either accident or suicide, the dean is convinced that Newman was murdered, and determines to use what Reve hears in confession to uncover the guilty party. The mystery embedded in the novel reveals itself subtly but effectively. Ultimately, though, what lingers is a deep appreciation for the many contradictions of the human condition, and the awareness that, in that respect, little has changed since medieval times.” —Clara Boza, Malaprop’s Bookstore

“Trumping all the above might be Samantha Harvey, whose relative anonymity should end if her next novel, The Western Wind, does as well as it deserves . . . A murder mystery, an acute dissection of class and money, and fabulously written.”—James Kidd, Post Magazine, South China Morning Post (Must-Read Books in 2018)

The Western Wind is an extraordinary, wise, wild and beautiful book—a thrilling mystery story and a lyrical enquiry into ideas of certainty and belief. Surprising, richly imagined, gloriously strange—the best kind of fiction.”—Joanna Kavenna, author of A Field Guide to Reality

“Harvey is up there with the best writers working today. Here she makes the medieval world feel as relevant and pressing as tomorrow morning because—as always—she captures the immutable stuff of the human condition.”—Nathan Filer, author of The Shock of the Fall


Select Praise for Dear Thief

Shortlisted for the James Tait Black Prize
Longlisted for the Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction

“Beautiful . . . Harvey’s book is propelled not by the usual structures of novel writing but by the quality of its author’s mind, by the luminousness of her prose, and by an ardent innocence of speculation that is rare in contemporary fiction. It is a strange and exhilarating journey, unlike anything I have recently encountered . . . I was at moments reminded of Marilynne Robinson . . . Remarkable.”—James Wood, New Yorker

Dear Thief is a novel of profound beauty. I’ll leave it at that.”—Michael Cunningham

“A glorious, sensuous, grown-up novel, intelligent and passionate.”—Tessa Hadley

Dear Thief is a hypnotic, beautiful and sometimes dark incantation. . . Samantha Harvey’s novel is a deftly drawn reminder of our deeply human desire for connection and the risk involved in the revelation of that desire.”—A.M. Homes

“An unblinking examination of art and love and death as different emanations of the same truth . . . philosophical, atmospheric, and masterful.”—Nicholas Mancusi, The Daily Beast

“Harvey’s innovations electrify every word . . . [with] an educated and meditative voice, reminiscent of those deployed by great stylists such as WG Sebald, Claire Messud, John Banville and Joseph O’Neill . . . it is so intimate, so honest, so raw. Dear Thief provokes you to think about life, and Life, and your own life, the people in it as well as the ghosts.”—Claire Kilroy, Guardian

“One of the most beguiling novels of the year… Harvey’s language is poetic, in a way that’s brave rather than sentimental, and her intricate observations demand to be dwelled upon. . . [Harvey] is this generation’s Virginia Woolf.”—Gaby Wood, Daily Telegraph

Select Praise for The Wilderness

Winner of the Betty Trask Prize
Shortlisted for the Orange Prize
Shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award
Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize

“Closer to Virginia Woolf’s meditative novels than anything else I can think of . . . This book is less about the erasure of one man’s life than about the vulnerability of an entire culture.”—Carolyn See, Washington Post

“[A] brave imagining of [Alzheimer’s] . . . Earlier in her life, Samantha Harvey studied philosophy, and that training is felt here . . . Every life is a mystery, Harvey seems to be saying, even to the one whose life it is.”—Sue Halpern, New York Times Book Review

“The Wilderness is Samantha Harvey’s first novel, but it feels like a mature work, as well crafted and as cryptic.”—Bookforum

“A really exciting debut is as rare as it ever was. Samantha Harvey’s first novel is an extraordinary dramatization of a mind in the process of disintegration . . . Brilliant.”—Times (London)


Dust and ashes though I am, I sleep the sleep of angels. Most nights nothing wakes me, not til I’m ready. But my sleep was ragged that night and pierced in the morning by someone calling to me in fear. A voice hissing, urgent, through the grille, “Father, are you in there?”

“Carter?” Even in a grog, I knew this voice well. “What’s the matter?”

“A drowned man in the river. Down at West Fields. I—I was down at the river to see about clearing a tree that’s fallen across it. A man there in the water, pushed up against the tree like a rag, Father.”

“Is he dead?”

“Dead as anything I’ve ever seen.”

I’d slept that night on the low stool of the confession booth with my cheek against the oak. A troubled night’s sleep, very far from the angels. Now I stood and pushed my skirts as flat as they’d go. Outside looked dark; it could have been any time of night or early morning, and my hands and feet were rigid with cold.