Harvesting by Lisa Harding is November’s Book Club choice
Award-winning debut novel tackles sex trafficking in Ireland
Lisa Harding: “handles a profoundly difficult issue with absolute care and multitudes of heart”
Harvesting by Lisa Harding is this month’s Irish Times Book Club choice. Over the next four weeks, we will explore the novel with articles by the author; fellow writers including Anthony Glavin, Alan McMonagle, Sophie Mackintosh and June Caldwell; academics in the field of creative writing and children’s rights law; the cover designer who created two very different covers for the title and more.
The story was inspired by Harding’s involvement with a campaign against sex trafficking run by the Children’s Rights Alliance. Although it is a fictionalised account, the text was read and approved by representatives for NGOs in both Moldova and Dublin.
Sammy is a spiky, quick-witted and sharp teenager living in Dublin; Nico is a warm and conscientious girl from Moldova. When they are thrown together in a Dublin brothel in a horrific twist of fate, a peculiar and important bond is formed.
This is a novel about a flourishing but hidden world, thinly concealed beneath a veneer of normality. It’s about the failings of polite society, the cruelty that can exist in apparently homely surroundings, the bluster of youth and the often appalling weakness of adults.
Harvesting is heartbreaking and funny, gritty, raw and breathtakingly beautiful, where redemption is found in friendship and unexpected acts of kindness.
After being shortlisted for the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year 2018 and the Newcomer of the Year at the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards 2017, the novel went on to win the Kate O’Brien Award 2018. Sarah Gilmartin reviewed it for The Irish Times, praising Harding “for writing about such an important and under-reported topic” and the book for being “… a character-driven and highly dramatic novel…vivid and credible”.
The Sunday Business Post acknowledged Harding as “a new writer worth your time”: “In much the same way that Louise O’Neill’s book Asking For It was a damning indictment of and a clarion call to the discussion surrounding rape culture, Harding’s book will do similarly good things for the discourse surrounding trafficking and sex work in Ireland.”
The Sunday Independent declared: “This is one of the most gut-wrenching, shiver-inducing pieces of fiction I have ever read...each line is gripping: mind and body are hooked into a world you don’t want to know exists, but which thrives under our very noses… electrifying.”
The Irish Examiner called the book “impressive and profoundly moving. It’s a harrowing read, but is never gratuitous.” Hot Press said: “This is not just a novel about sex trafficking – it is also about friendship and hope in the darkest places. A harrowing but important read – and one that will stay with you long afterwards.”
Dan Bolger, who commissioned and edited the novel, said: “Lisa Harding’s Harvesting landed on my desk along with a load of recommendations. Instantly, we were captivated by this remarkable book – not just for the accomplishment of the prose, which is considerable, and not just for its unforgettable characters, Sammy and Nico, but also for how weighty, how vital it felt. A lot of publishers would be wary of publishing a book about such dark subject matter, but we felt this book had to be published.
“It’s rare to hold a submission in your hands and know on a cellular level that it has to be done, that it can’t not be done. But that’s what happened here. Lisa was an absolute joy to work with – she is sound, boundlessly energetic, and her talent is obvious. She handles a profoundly difficult issue with absolute care and multitudes of heart, and has, in Harvesting, produced one hell of a great read.”
As well as being an author, Lisa Harding is also an actress and playwright. She has performed at the Abbey, the Gate, the Lyric, and the Manchester Library, among others. She received an MPhil in creative writing from Trinity College Dublin in 2014. Her short stories have been published in the Dublin Review, the Bath Short Story Anthology and HeadStuff. Her plays include Starving, And All Because, and Playground.
Harding will be discussing her work with Laura Slattery of The Irish Times, on Thursday, November 15th, at 7pm, in the Irish Writers Centre, 19 Parnell Square, Dublin 1. It will be available to listen to on irishtimes.com on November 30th.