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House of Meetings [Hardcover]

Martin Amis
3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

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Book Description

18 Sep 2006

There were conjugal visits in the slave camps of the USSR. Valiant women would travel continental distances, over weeks and months, in the hope of spending a night, with their particular enemy of the people, in the House of Meetings. The consequences of these liaisons were almost invariably tragic.

House of Meetings is about one such liaison. It is a triangular romance: two brothers fall in love with the same girl, a nineteen-year-old Jewess, in Moscow, which is poised for pogrom in the gap between the war and the death of Stalin. Both brothers are arrested, and their rivalry slowly complicates itself over a decade in the slave camp above the Arctic Circle.

As one brother, finally, writes to the other, 'You know what happened to us? It wasn't just a compendium of very bad experiences. That was general and standard-issue. That was off the rack. What I'm referring to is the destiny that is made to measure. Something was designed inside us, blending with what was already there. For each of us, in different ways and settings, the worst of all possible outcomes.'

A short novel of great depth and richness, House of Meetings finds Martin Amis at the height of his powers, in new and remarkably fertile fictional territory.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape; First Edition edition (18 Sep 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224076094
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224076098
  • Product Dimensions: 22 x 13.8 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 576,930 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


Everything is presented with Amis's customary élan and intelligence (M John Harrison Guardian)

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)

Undeniably, distinctively identifiable, vintage Martin (Tim Martin Independent on Sunday)

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

The novel has a cumulative power and resonates with many reflections about the course of individual destiny in a profoundly cruel universe (Douglas Kennedy The Times)

Book Description

Bound to be a major literary event, Martin Amis's new novella is both pertinent and provocative.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Great but Disturbing 4 Nov 2006
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 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
3.0 out of 5 stars Skilled but frustrating and unconvincing 10 Jun 2007
`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
3.0 out of 5 stars Great....until the end. 6 Nov 2007
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars House of pain

There were conjugal visits in the slave camps of the USSR. Valiant women would travel continental distances, over weeks and months, in the hope of spending a... Read more
Published 22 months ago by col2910
1.0 out of 5 stars Unreadable Torment
I bought this in hardback from the £1 shop, and can honestly say it was grossly overpriced. I can only remember giving up on two books before, one of them was Yellow Dog, the other... Read more
Published on 8 Jun 2012 by M. R. Dangerfield
4.0 out of 5 stars First Impressions
Being an Amis virgin I must review my response to House of Meetings without reference to previous works. Read more
Published on 25 Nov 2011 by Mick Read
4.0 out of 5 stars Deep, rich and short book about the Gulag and more
The house of meetings is a hut where conjugal visits were allowed in the latter part of the Soviet Gulag era. Read more
Published on 25 Sep 2011 by J. Vernon
4.0 out of 5 stars A Hitski, not Amiski
A tale of Stalinism and brotherly love, House of Meetings is a book that, once it hooks you, never lets you go. Read more
Published on 4 Aug 2011 by The Outsider
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
Martin Amis must have been feeling miserable when he wrote this book because misery seeps from every page. Read more
Published on 5 Aug 2010 by Pauline Butcher Bird
1.0 out of 5 stars NO! NO! NO!
House of Meetings Ok, Martin Amis is a talented writer but ...... what is it about the contemporary literary novel that the authors seem to regard the story as irrelevant! Read more
Published on 30 July 2010 by J. P. Mckenna
3.0 out of 5 stars an excellent bad book
There is so much of excellence in this terrible book, you really ought to read it. It is not, as Woody Allen said War and Peace was, "about Russia". Read more
Published on 7 Jan 2010 by E. Clarke
4.0 out of 5 stars comic tragic love story
A story that begins by giving you the grey images you imagine of communist soviet union. The gulag as a background of a story of human degradation doted with spots of a love story. Read more
Published on 5 Jan 2010 by Nadia Ribeiro
2.0 out of 5 stars Money is still his best
Money by Marin Amis was one of the best books of the 1980s, an almost perfect satire of that awful decade. Read more
Published on 27 Nov 2008 by David Hadley
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