Saturday, 28 July 2012

Featured Author - Jim Crace

We all have favourite authors, don't we? If I enjoy a book, like the style and the way the subject matter is treated, I try to read more of that author's work and they may become a 'favourite'.

One such author is Jim Crace. I first heard of Crace when he won the Whitbread (now the Costa) for the second time in 1997.  Since then, I've read several of his books but, as each is different, it is difficult to categorise his work. A.S. Byatt (POSSESSION) has described him as the most significant writer in English fiction of the last ten years, yet his books are easy to read.

Crace was born in Hertfordshire, England in 1946 and worked as a journalist and foreign correspondent. He has written short stories and non-fiction as well as about a dozen novels.

The following summaries of his books were sourced from the internet.

His first book, CONTINENT (1986), consists of seven interconnected stories set on an imaginary seventh continent, exploring Western attitudes to the Third World. I found it almost fable-like in its simplicity.

ARCADIA (1992), his third book, is set in an imaginary British city in the future.

QUARANTINE (1997), which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction, is a reworking of the biblical account of Jesus's 40 days spent in the wilderness. It is actually not religious and is my favourite Crace book.

BEING DEAD(1999) narrates the murder and physical decomposition of a couple on a remote beach, interpolated with episodes from their life. This is one for the fans of forensic crime stories and vies with QUARANTINE for best book.

THE PESTHOUSE (2007), a love story set in a future America. I think it is somewhat of a stretch to call it a love story.  If you enjoyed Cormac McCarthy's THE ROAD, you'll like this one too.

ALL THAT FOLLOWS (2010) is set in England 2024, and George Bush's Texas, 2006, this hypnotic novel is Crace's most overtly political novel.  Billed as a thriller, it reminded me of Ian McEwan's SATURDAY.

And some I haven't read………….yet.

THE GIFT OF STONES (1988) portrays a coastal Stone Age community threatened by Bronze Age technology.

THE DEVIL'S LARDER (2001), consists of 64 short fictions about food.

His novel, SIX (2003), charts the sexual history of actor Felix Dern, whose seemingly perfect life is blighted by the fact that every woman he sleeps with bears his child.

Crace is not well known, at least not in Australia, despite winning a swag of awards. If you've read him, please share your impressions.  If not, write his name on your recommended reading list.


  1. Anecdote:
    Crace was on his way to a promotional gig but forgot to bring his book. Thinking that he would sign a few copies for the bookseller, he called in at a bookshop to buy a copy. The bookseller corrected the pronunciation of his name. Crace said it was pronounced to rhyme with 'grace' but before he could introduce himself, the bookseller again corrected him, pronouncing it cra-chay. Crace said nothing….but didn't sign any books.

  2. What about nominating one of his books for next read?

    1. Good idea, Madeleine, depending on availability. Crace's books always provide discussion topics and they are good reading.
      The good news is that he has a new book being released early next year, HARVEST. You can read the first chapter and more about Crace and his work on Andrew Hewitt's dedicated website:

      I won't be reading it. I couldn't bear to wait six months or more for chapter 2!

  3. Nanette Gottlieb13 August 2012 at 14:32

    Thanks for the introduction to Jim Crace, Sanmac. I've just finished The Pesthouse - I have mixed feelings about it, as it seemed to be just another post-apocalyptic road story with all the standard episodes, but I did like his command of language and his seemingly inexhaustible eye for landscape details. Next I'll try Quarantine, I think.

    1. I'm pleased, Nanette, that you liked Crace's writing enough to read more of his work. Yes, the story is similar to others. McCarthy's 'The Road' and Steven Amsterdam's 'Things we Didn't See Coming' come to mind, however, I felt Crace created his world without reference to what was lost - technology etc so that it wasn't actually futuristic. Time was irrelevant. I was most moved by the beach scene of all those people waiting for boats. Crace lightened it with the characters but their hope was based only on a rumour.

      Quarantine is an original storyline, which to me had the 'wow' factor. I will be interested in your impressions. Look out for the often subtle biblical references. Enjoy.

  4. Sad news for lovers of fine fiction: following Philip Roth's withdrawal from the writing game, Jim Crace, whose Quarantine was shortlisted for the Man Booker in 1997, is also putting the cap on his pen for good. In an interview in The Independent he claimed that: “Retiring from writing is not to retire from life”, rather it is “to avoid the inevitable bitterness which a writing career is bound to deliver as its end product, in almost every case.” Many would argue to the contrary. Crace is only 66 and one hopes he can be talked round. After all, when a posse of academics studied the prose of Quarantine they found, apparently, that it “fulfilled a mathematical formula for poetry”. That is too rare a gift to lose.

    Courtesy of The Man Booker Prize

    Sad news indeed. I do hope that Crace's latest book, 'Harvest', is so successful that he changes his mind and continues to publish.

  5. I can't imagine anyone who loves writing actually retiring from it. Maeve Binchy tried but it wasn't too long before we saw her books back on shelves. Must admit though, her latter works were not her finest.
    Perhaps Roth and Crace will continue to write for the joy of it but not attempt to get published?

    1. I'm greatly disappointed. These are two of my very favourite writers. It's almost a betrayal of their fans. You probably think I'm crazy, taking it so personally. Roth has written so much that it will take a while to catch up but Crace must have more to give. They may continue to write but they need to publish as well. Maybe I should take up a petition? lol

    2. Clive James said in an interview that he doesn't believe Roth has given up writing. He thinks that Roth's next book will be about an author who has given up writing. Lol

      Crace's new book, Harvest, is out now. See "New Releases" for a synopsis.