Review: DRIVE YOUR PLOW OVER THE BONES OF THE DEAD by Olga Tokarczuk (trans. Antonia Lloyd-Jones, 2019)

Genre: Adult Mystery
Year Release in English: 2019
Source: Physical Copy

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content warnings: violence against animal, dead pets, hunting, misogyny, blood, bore, vomiting, blood in stool (mentioned), alcoholism

A woman with a deep love for animals is at the center of this mystery where men with violent tendencies towards the local wildlife start appearing dead in her vicinity. The source material for the movie, Spoor (2017), I definitely had to give this one a read, and it’s incredible how well both versions of the story work in their respective media.

Much smaller in scope than The Books of Jacob, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead is a character study of a recluse who loves animals living among hunters and

As far as the mystery goes, it follows all the beats. There’s more social tensions than a horror-esque dread. With how Ms. Duszejsko conducts herself with regards to animals and her vegetarian lifestyle, the people around her are the biggest danger. There’s a bit about womanhood in that, even in her elder years, she’s not performing it correctly as far as Polish culture goes, and the way that’s explored kept me as invested as the rest of the narrative.

I love how deep in her psyche Tokarczuk gets. The way nouns are capitalized and the logic behind the nicknames she gives those around her are as much part of the storytelling vehicle as the mystery narrative structure. It is not my lane, but given her hyper fixation on astrology (there is a lot on birth and star charts throughout) and the poetry of William Blake, the character reads autistic to me, and I’m unsure if it was unintentional.

While the human victims are all men, I would strongly advise those who have an affinity for wildlife to stay away. The descriptions of the fauna deaths as graphic in their descriptions as the human mutilation. It’s metal and justifies Ms. Duszejko’s fierce affinity. There are dogs in the narrative, things don’t end well for them.

A note on the translation: I’m not sure this one is for people familiar with esoteric Poland. There’s one translation of the convenience store Żabka that fits with the rest of the prose conventions but other moments that suggest this isn’t a fluke. My mother is getting me a copy of the original Polish so I can compare.

Overall, I enjoyed it, and it makes me want to rewatch the movie, a rarity for me.

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One thought on “Review: DRIVE YOUR PLOW OVER THE BONES OF THE DEAD by Olga Tokarczuk (trans. Antonia Lloyd-Jones, 2019)

  1. Pingback: January 2023 Reading Recap | Jo Writes Fantasy

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