CriminOlly thinks: 1970s folk horror tale is great in some ways, jarringly dated in others. 3/5
Harvest Home was published in 1973, the same year the classic folk horror movie The Wicker Man was released. Like that film, it features a lead character from the city travelling to a rural setting and encounters weird, folk horror type goings on.
In Harvest Home, the protagonist (and narrator) is Ned, an artist who moves with his wife and daughter from New York to the sleepy Connecticut village of Cornwall Coombe. There they find a community that feels cut off from the modern world. It’s one focussed very much on farming and in particular the harvest. Pagan rituals abound and an elderly woman, Widow Fortune, acts as a faith healer when contemporary medicine fails. As the plot progresses the traditions of the village, which initially seemed harmless, appear more and more sinister. Added to this is the grave of a young woman, distinctly separate from the rest in the churchyard. It’s something Ned becomes obsessed with and his determination to find out how the woman died plays a big part in the story.
The city vs country trope was huge in the 1970s and Harvest Home is a good example of it. Tryon does a great job of describing the village and its residents, making Cornwall Coombe both convincing and threatening. The gradual unravelling of the mystery of the separate grave is woven well into the rest of the story and serves well as a reason for Ned to keep scratching at the surface to uncover the darkness beneath.
It’s a longish book and the slow build-up of tension and weirdness is effectively handled. Often the events seem almost quaint and then Tryon throws in some alarmingly graphic violence (often against animals) to shake things up. What I liked less was Tryon’s portrayal of women, which was dated to say the least. Widow Fortune is often feels like little more than a stereotypical crone and another major female character is a cliched seductress. Throw in a pretty unpleasant rape scene (and its aftermath) and you have a book whose 50-year age is both a blessing and a curse. At its best it’s an enjoyable, atmospheric 70s rural gothic, at its worst it feels like a clumsy response to the growing feminist movement.
Title: Harvest Home | Author: Thomas Tryon | Publisher: Open Road Media | Pages: 461 | Publication date: 12th May 1973 | ISBN: 9780394485287 / ASIN: B09TPY83XY | Source: Kindle Unlimited
After watching his asthmatic daughter suffer in the foul city air, Theodore Constantine decides to get back to the land. When he and his wife search New England for the perfect nineteenth-century home, they find no township more charming, no countryside more idyllic than the farming village of Cornwall Coombe. Here they begin a new life: simple, pure, close to nature—and ultimately more terrifying than Manhattan’s darkest alley.
When the Constantines win the friendship of the town matriarch, the mysterious Widow Fortune, they are invited to join the ancient festival of Harvest Home, a ceremony whose quaintness disguises dark intentions. In this bucolic hamlet, where bootleggers work by moonlight and all of the villagers seem to share the same last name, the past is more present than outsiders can fathom—and something far more sinister than the annual harvest is about to rise out of the earth.
Content Warning: Rape, violence against animals.
Wow…sounds intriguing, thanks for sharing, mate and I’ll have to check that one out!