Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

By Olga Tokarczuk, Antonia Lloyd-Jones (translator),

Book cover of Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

Book description

With DRIVE YOUR PLOW OVER THE BONES OF THE DEAD, Nobel Prize in Literature laureate Olga Tokarczuk returns with a subversive, entertaining noir novel. In a remote Polish village, Janina Duszejko, an eccentric woman in her sixties, recounts the events surrounding the disappearance of her two dogs. She is reclusive,…

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Why read it?

9 authors picked Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I remember an awards ceremony where Bjork described herself as “a musical scientist.” Most likely accepting some well-deserved award, she spoke in this odd sing-song way that made her seem genuinely like a mad scientist.

I think Olga Tokarczuk is a bit like Bjork. Her voice is utterly unique, with a texture and humor perfectly suited to this book's marvelous protagonist. I loved Janina Dusezjko, a cranky old Polish woman wandering the hills of her village trying to solve a mystery. I could have listened to her for the whole book even if there was no mystery, so the unraveling…

From Sabrina's list on a fierce female protagonist.

Serial murders in rural Silesia form the backbone of this cunning mystery novel and the backdrop to a self-portrait of a wise, eccentric, opinionated old bag who turns out to be not only quite charming but extraordinarily devious.

Almost completely devoid of sex and drugs, the story mixes lessons in astrology with an impassioned engagement with the poetry of William Blake and resumes his campaign to respect the lives of animals. Crammed full of witty observations of human beastliness, Drive Your Plow is an unusually accomplished detective story, a first-rate animal rights manifesto, and a defense of a person’s right…

This book is a wild ride, start to finish, and there is nothing I could write that would prepare any reader for it. I wasn’t prepared when I picked it up.

It opens with a conventional-enough discovery of a murder victim. From there, there’s astrology, William Blake, animal rights, mushroom foraging, feminism, violence, beauty, and small-town politics in an overwintering resort town on the Polish-Czech border.

The narrator’s voice is utterly unique: if she walked into my house, I’d know her right away. And I’d be slightly alarmed and thrilled, exactly how I felt while reading this transcendent, angry, funny…

From Mo's list on fans of Dorothy L. Sayers.

An atmospheric, taut, and stylish novel – it was first published in 2009 in Poland and written by a clinical psychologist who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2018.

It has an atmospheric setting in rural Silesia. You can feel the glistening dampness of the forest where the main character, Janina, has a shack. This intriguing woman, a virtual hermit, places value only on poetry, astrology, and animal welfare. The forest is all around; claustrophobic and threatening.

In the few homes near the shack, people are being killed. Janina’s response is to immerse herself even deeper in the works…

From Hugh's list on puzzling murder mysteries.

Janina is an older Polish woman. She speaks her mind—even if few listen—foments conflict and spends her days translating the poetry of William Blake and studying astrology, which she believes underlies everything. How could I not fall under her spell? But it was her deep affinity and affection for animals, even beyond that for her fellow humans—far beyond—that made me walk beside her in sympathy. When the dead bodies start piling up, all men, she utterly convinces me that these are acts of revenge, not by humans, but by animals on the local hunters. 

From Nina's list on iconoclastic women.

This is an intriguing murder mystery set in the evocative Winter landscape of the Silesia Region of Poland, close to the Czech Border. When Janina’s two pet dogs go missing, a murderous chain of events begins. The eccentric and feisty Janina is funny and warm and cantankerous – I love how she stands up for what she believes in, taking on her neighbours and haranguing the police and bureaucrats.

From Jacqueline's list on brilliant old women as heroines.

This is a murder mystery but it is still about listening. And who is murdering whom, anyway? Told in the person of an eccentric Polish recluse, Janina, this book had me rooting for strange outcomes. The very earth is listening to us dangerous humans and cannot be silent anymore. Part ode to William Blake, part naturalist's hymn, part the demented story of a possible crackpot (or saint), this book's warp and weft are grief and listening.

From Charlotte's list on the healing power of listening.

Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk’s Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead (published in the English language in 2019) is unique, atmospheric, and impossible to put down. The novel is narrated by Janina, a wonderfully quirky, smart, independent woman who stands up for animals in a small, remote Polish town of hunters and poachers. Most in the town don’t connect with her compassion for animals (to say the least), and when local hunters begin turning up dead, officials brush Janina off as she attempts to help them solve the crimes. This slender book is a treasure—a warm, witty, page-turning…

From Midge's list on saving animals.

Janina Duszejko is a Polish mature woman that loves astronomy and she is an activist and a vegan. She lives with her two dogs in a small village in a landscape that has many hunters near the Czech border. One day, her dogs go missing, a neighbor is dead, and more dark crimes are committed. She believes that maybe animals killed the hunters. The background of this novel examines people without empathy, of a society full of avaricious, and the neglect of nature by humans. This book, through its main character and some good friends, brings a heartbreaking look at…

From Núria's list on female anti-heroes.

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