Book review: Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

Drive your plow

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead
by Olga Tokarczuk
Translated from the Polish by
Antonia Lloyd-Jones
Fitzcarraldo Editions
Originally published as
Prowadź swój pług przez kości umarłych
in 2009
Genre: Crime Fiction/ Mystery
272 pages


By now, you know that this year, the Man Booker International 2019 longlist offered an interesting mix of books set between genres. Today, I’m presenting Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, which turns out to be crime fiction, even though it first appears as literary fiction.

The book opens and focuses on Mrs Duszejko – don’t call her by first name Janina, she hates it! She’s quite the character! She lives in a remote area, with few inhabitants in the winter. So while the owners of the houses are spending the colder months in the city, she looks over their houses. There are only a few neighbors, who all received a nickname by her.
Mrs Duszejko has two passions in life: animals, especially her two dogs, which alas died, and astrology! She has developed intricate ways to know a lot about others and their day of death, thanks to all her calculations based on their date of birth.
Still, she is no stranger to life mysteries. And one day, she discovers a shocking picture which is going to change all her life.

Another major mystery is members of the local hunting club found dead one after the other, and weird circumstances hinting at a possible revenge by the animals themselves! So our main character is conducting her own investigation to discover the culprits. Incidentally, when I was reading this book, I heard about something similar happening in 2019: “Suspected Rhino Poacher Trampled by Elephants and Eaten by Lions in South Africa”!

I enjoyed the beginning of the book, with cool, hilarious, and detailed descriptions, interspersed with funny reflections on life and death.

By now Big Foot had gone, so it was hard to feel any pity or resentment towards him. All that remained was his body, lifeless, clothed in the suit. Now it looked calm and satisfied, as if the spirit were pleased to be finally free of the matter, and the matter were pleased to be finally free of the spirit. In this short space of time a metaphysical divorce had occurred. The end
Chapter 1

Without a doubt Anger is the source of all wisdom, for Anger has the power to exceed any limits.
Chapter 1

With age, many men come down with testosterone autism, the symptoms of which are a gradual decline in social intelligence and capacity for interpersonal communication, as well as a reduced ability to formulate thoughts.
Chapter 2

Actually, Mrs Duszejko has another passion: William Blake! One of her former students is translating him, and he comes weekly to discuss about his translation. Each chapter begins with a quotation by him.

There are other cute and poetic passages, such as this one:

The Sun was dazzlingly bright, it had only just risen, and still red from the effort, was casting long, sleepy shadows.
Chapter 5

I also enjoyed how weird elements kept multiplying and led the book to the explanation I was starting to guess. The ending is as quirky as the main character.

Did it deserve to be on the MB12019 shortlist?
Definitely, mostly for its quirkiness of style and content.

VERDICT: A quirky crime fiction!

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Any other quirky crime fiction you have read?



4 thoughts on “Book review: Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

  1. Pingback: Man Booker International Prize 2019 shortlist | Words And Peace

  2. Pingback: 2019 Calendar of Crime Challenge | Words And Peace

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