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House of Meetings Paperback – 4 Oct 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (4 Oct. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 009948868X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099488682
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13 x 1.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 494,798 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Martin Amis is the author of ten novels, the memoir Experience, two collections of stories and six collections of non-fiction. He lives in London.

Product Description

Review

"This novella is the best thing Martin Amis has done in fiction for years: very complex, very forceful, startling in the amount of ground it covers, and densely and intelligently put together" (Sam Leith Literary Review)

"An ambitious feat...the result is brilliant" (Catherine Merridale Independent)

"It is difficult not to be impressed by this compact tour de force... Amis has produced a memorable novel and a memorable protagonist" (Toby Lichtig Observer)

"A singular, unimpeachable triumph" (The Economist)

"Unmistakably Amis's best novel since London Fields...a slender, moving novel, streaked with dark comedy" (Robert MacFarlane Sunday Times)

Book Description

'Terrific... Painful, trenchant, and elegantly written' Lionel Shriver, Daily Telegraph

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Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
With House of Meetings Martin Amis has at last put down his distorting lens. With the unarguable reality of his subject matter - the Siberian gulag - what is left to distend? Only the faint but imperishable joys of human imagination can grace such a heartless state inspired depravity. And here, at last, Amis serves himself a dish greatly to his relish and taste. Utilising wonderfully subtle hyperbole, he creates a Russian alter-ego whose self-awareness unshackles the author's usual authorial straightjacket.

Sensitive yet violent, his narrator symbolically represents that strange ambiguity of Russian power, whether personal or political. In a language of rich beauty he discovers where all is lost, in a sense everything else is gained and rare for Amis, not least a voice of buoyancy.

But be warned, in the gulag the writer is still in his element. In place of the usual narrative morbidity we have the refined voice of a resilient brute whose ultimate act of destructiveness somehow represents the withering insecurity of the Amis paranoia. This closes up an otherwise excellent book in a typical fetish of `male anxiety' and justifiable self-loathing.

In sum great writing, even a great book; but sadly let down by the author's flawed finale squeezing out its loftier potential. The arch miserablist remains intact.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Ethan Cooper on 4 Nov. 2006
Format: Hardcover
Fans of Martin Amis will recognize a narrative dynamic in HOUSE OF MEETINGS. This is fraternal competition, which manifests in the novels SUCCESS, MONEY, and THE INFORMATION as the hilarious but sad interplay between dependent men.

But in HOUSE OF MEETINGS, Mart gives his fans a twist. This time, he takes this same dynamic and imagines its expression between two brothers in Soviet Russia, the older a soldier brutalized by his experiences in World War II. In HOUSE OF MEETINGS, Mart asks whether this dynamic, which drove the lives of his characters in 1980's London and New York, could withstand years of slave labor in Stalin's Gulag.

One Amazon.com wag (the review has disappeared) called this book ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF MARTIN AMISOVITCH. Mart's fans who read HOUSE OF MEETINGS will see this comment is spot-on, since this novel explores such familiar Amis themes as male competition, loveless sex, retribution, and bad teeth, this time in heavy-handed Soviet society. It's fascinating stuff and the writing, especially in the first and last sections, is brilliant.

One word of warning: The experience of reading this book is similar to reading EVERYMAN, the latest from Philip Roth. I'd call each novel a short, flawless, and mesmerizing page turner. But neither book is happy reading, even with the guilt plagued narrator of HOUSE OF MEETINGS finally earning profound but ironic praise from his younger brother.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Jack E. R. Henry on 10 Jun. 2007
Format: Hardcover
`we will have to keep returning to the subject of mass emotion.', says Amis' unnamed and rich octogenarian narrator in his opening letter to his niece, which warns of the painful truths he is to divulge about his life. The narrator is heading north along the Yenisei river bisecting Russia, and towards the mass emotion of his own past as a political prisoner in one Stalin's gulags.

`Mass emotion' is fertile ground for Amis. Before his non-fiction exploration of the same historical and political territory in Koba the Dread, Amis has already tackled the Holocaust in a rather bold backwards-moving narrative (moving literally backwards in time being the only way for him to move in to the Holocaust itself) and before that a book of short stories headed by an emotional and polemical essay, all tackling the subject of nuclear weapons (from an existential tack: the meaning of their mere existence). Even in his more urban comic fiction Amis' acerbic vision is subverted by anonymous murdered children in The Information, spasmodic hovering violence in Money and a nameless atmospheric threat in the apocalyptic London Fields.

In The House of Meetings - the name of the area for conjugal visits with prisoners in the gulag - Amis provides two narratives that move as shifting scenery around the brutality of the prison life, which is rawly portrayed through individual scenes of the narrator's encounter with lightning-quick violence between the competing hierarchies, scurvy, cold and starvation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By E. J. Reed on 6 Nov. 2007
Format: Hardcover
I am a big Amis fan and I really felt this book was something I could get my teeth into. However all the way through we are told that the protagonist would be punished for his crimes, that justice would prevail, and that something terrible was on the horizon, ,but it never actually happened. I was all geared up for some hideous climax (Amis + gulag + endless foreshadowing should have equalled the most depraved, soul crushing ending of any book, ever.) Did I just miss something? Was it supposed to be a sudden, pointless ending to ape the style of Russian writers?
I've only given it three stars because he can do so much better and I felt jipped. It's still better than a lot of books out there.
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