It takes place during Tudor times and the Enclosure Act which changed the ownership of land in England. I think you can understand the book more if you know about this, which I didn't. Jim Crace himself has said though, that it is not a 'Tudor novel' but could take place anywhere, anytime. The story is not really much of a story and could have been told on much lesser pages. However, this book has to be seen as a symbolic story. It can refer to many things that happens today, how people act, especially when your life stile is threatened, how scared you are of people different from yourself.
This is a very symbolic book and I think it has to be seen as such. I loved the poetic language, but did not think too much of the story. However, having given it some days after finishing it, the book lingers with me so it certainly has something to give. It is worth a read.