“She’d heard the word before, of course, but the importance of the concept had escaped her as a child. Now Arthur spelled it out. How it would be impossible to farm on the open mountain if the flock didn’t know its place. The sheep would scatter to the winds otherwise. It was why farms hereabouts were only ever sold along with their flocks. No one would buy a patch of land alone. What use would it be? You could try to put new livestock on it, but they’d be gone in a season.”
The sheep know their place, their territory, and so do the people.
Although both Esther and Karsten are a complex characters, and the story that eventually brings them together is well-made, and Davies’s prose is beautiful (Peter was a teacher of mine), I think there will be many readers who are more interested in the time and place of this story than I was. Some of Esther’s situation seemed a bit too familiar to me and while that will appeal to many, I wanted the story to take a different turn.
For another view, and for a discussion of the third point of view that the novel inhabits, see this review by Jim Ruland.