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We Are Now Beginning Our Descent Paperback – 2 Apr 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 302 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; Main edition (2 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847671152
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847671158
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 341,898 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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* Astonishing. A love story that owes everything to the great collision of Osama bin Laden and Bush Jr's foreign policy. An intensely flavoured excavation of our times ... wholly original. The Times * A brilliantly constructed contemporary novel, illuminated with wit and intelligence on almost every page. Daily Mail * Damnably hard to put down, with the momentum and trajectory of a well-aimed rocket. A book to keep one reading through the small hours. Terrific. -- Jonathan Raban London Review of Books * A truthful and powerful novel about love, friendship and the struggle to be true in a world that has lost its grip on certainties. New Statesman * Compelling and admirable ... Kellas is one of the more intriguing anti-heroes of recent fiction. -- Matt Thorne Sunday Telegraph * Genuinely affecting. Sunday Times * Always readable, the book has pace and assurance. A highly intelligent novel and edgily contemporary. Independent * Conscientious and courageous. Guardian * We Are Now Beginning our Descent is really a love story, a fine successor to The People's Act of Love. Spectator * Meek has created not just an entertaining novel, but a valuable comment on some of the most contentious issues of our time. Irish Times * Partly a thought-provoking ... meditation on writing, modern warfare and moral responsibility, it is also a poignant love story. -- Katie Owen Sunday Telegraph 20090322 * Marvellous ... interrogates its subject matter with intensity, seriousness and balance ... An existential masterpiece. Guardian 20090328 * Supremely enjoyable and smartly written, with a scale that attempts not only to understand something about the world and the West's place in it, but something more timeless: men and their trouble understanding love. -- Colin Waters Sunday Herald 20090412 * James Meek's novel is full of startling vignettes, caustic observations and fine black comedy. -- Toby Clements Daily Telegraph 20090418 * Meek's terrific prose batters the notion of non-combatant neutrality with a couple of explosive set pieces ... a terse, adrenaline-charged plot that punctures a fragile love story with uncomfortable questions about ideals and reality. -- James Urquhart Financial Times 20090404 * He skilfully weaves a contemporary take on war, love and the demands of the marketplace on those who seek to be poets, not bards with his characteristic segueing from ont time and place to another, or one perspective to another, that keeps the reader on constant alert. -- Lesley McDowell Herald 20090411

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From the bestselling author of The People's Act of Love

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By O. Ford on 5 Aug. 2008
Format: Hardcover
James Meek's latest book, We Are Now Beginning Our Descent is a more contemporary narrative than that of his previous novel, The People's Act of Love. Adam Kellas, a British journalist reporting from Afghanistan, falls in love with the enigmatic Astrid, only to be separated from her. His love for her and other doubts lead him to abandon his old friends and set off in search of Astrid. At the same time, Kellas is attempting to push through a glossy war-thriller novel for publication, but questions its artistic credibility.

This latter narrative strand, along with Meek's own journalistic past, means that it is tempting to view We Are Now Beginning Our Descent as autobiographical to a certain extent, or at least addresses issues directly relevant to Meek's own experiences in writing. One passage in particular suggests as much, when Kellas' friend M'Gurgan contemplates how and why people write. He suggests that there are two kinds of writers - bards, who write principally to entertain people ("He remembers the people he meets and makes history out of things that have only just happened") and priests, who search for higher meanings and ideas ("The way the priest sees it, truth is more important than happiness").

From the evidence here however it seems Meek is comfortable with both approaches. The book is a fast paced, entertaining read, but also raises big questions about the modern world - such as how can a war-time journalist ever be detached from the conflict he is reporting on? Or how can love survive in a world of such huge distances? (A point emphasised by the many different locations.) However, whilst accomplished and at times thought-provoking, I believe Meek capable of better.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Asmar Chaudhry, Manchester, UK on 27 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback
I was really looking forward to this; 'The People's Act of Love' was a quite outstanding achievement and the blurb for this sounded great, but overall I feel let down.

Meek sends his main character on a journey of self-discovery without first checking if we actually care enough. It will be impossible for this story to compete with the many modern and classic counterparts which have stars to whom the reader relates and sympathises. The author knows that the world will think that Adam Kellas is a simply awful man, but the longer the narrative spends trying to explain his point of view, the more difficult this becomes to read.

At the same time, however, 'We Are Now Beginning Our Descent' ends well, and throughout we are treated to passages of the thoughtful, stylish and memorable writing that graced 'The People's Act of Love'.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By prisrob TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 16 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback
"The theme of the West's (and journalism's) distanced overflight of the rest of the world is an arresting one, richly written and cleverly developed. But like a Strasbourg goose force-fed for its liver, the organic growth and movement a novel requires are forced into distortion and bloat. What the characters stand for is interesting, but often they hardly stand at all. They are stood; they are moved about.' Richard Eder

'We Are Now Beginning Our Descent", when most of us hear these words, we are relieved, we are reaching our destination. However, these words written by James Meek have a totally different connotation. In the context of this novel, America, full of its own power is losing altitude and coming to face the power and anger of the third world. James Meek has the ability in his precise and so thoughtfully written prose, to put us in our place with many reminders of where we have been and how silly and frightening the lies and power of the United States have become. It seems most every other country has faced these idols. Now, James Meek tells us we must face ours.

Adam Kellas is an English journalist who portrays the guilt of the West in his behaviors. He has his entire life, done whatever he wanted, when he wanted, with no thought of anyone else. Relationships come and go, friendships are sometimes built of straw, and his career is as aimless as his thoughts. He is offered a job in Afghanistan to report on the war. At first, he says no, but then realizes he does not want to be thought of as a coward. His last relationship has ended, he is at loose ends. He hops a plane and in a matter of hours is in Afghanistan, joining other journalists. All of them intelligent and talented, but many without any goal but to be the first reporting the War.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Ms Stephanie on 19 Feb. 2008
Format: Hardcover
James Meek's reading in Blackwell's, Edinburgh last night showed his audience that the only thing more exciting than reading his books is listening to him be so articulate about them. We Are Now Beginning Our Descent (one of my favourite title choices in ages) is completely different from The People's Act of Love, but likewise says something original and true about how people operate now, in a war-fatigued, globalised world. It was great to see the range of readers the book has attracted, judging from the other audience members at Meek's gig yesterday - everyone from retired Edinburgh literati to young immigrants (and his sister, artist Joanna Kane).

Yet it isn't only a political novel or a war novel - it describes what it's like for a disillusioned man to alienate himself from his friends (spectacularly), become convinced he's in love, allow his emotions to fly him to rural America and then have his expectations thrown for a loop by the strange, complicated woman he elected to fall for. The book asks fascinating questions: how many different ways are there to sell out? When we feel things most strongly, is it because we're deceiving ourselves more than usual? This fairly miserable character, Adam Kellas, has a strange pull on the reader, and it all rings weirdly true.
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