The Plough’s Share
The Plough’s Share follows Jack Thornton from England to South Africa to Canada at the end of the 19th century. Jack’s father, Assistant Dean at Gloucester Cathedral, has died disgraced after some unwise investments, forcing Jack to give up his job as a clerk and take up work as a farmhand for a vicar in the Forest of Dean. Jack’s regard for the vicar’s niece, Emma, prompts him to seek glory, and so he enlists to fight in the Boer War. But his stint in South Africa does not improve his standing in society and so soon after returning to England, Jack decides to claim free acreage as part of the British colony in Saskatchewan.
Jack’s love for Emma and his determination to make something of his life were the forces that kept me turning the pages of this hefty novel. I did wonder in places whether the story could have been told in fewer words. But David Richards’ research was surely displayed, a challenging task when focusing on three very distinct aspects of the period – life in the Forest of Dean, the Boer War, and British colonization in Canada’s West. Richards’ depiction of life on a fledging farm in Canada circa 1905 was particularly realistic, highlighting how dependent human survival can be on extraneous forces.