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The People's Act Of Love Hardcover – 7 Jul 2005

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; First edition (7 July 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841956546
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841956541
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 13.8 x 4.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 503,159 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"This is a gripping, troubling epic about the perils of human capacity and its necessary limits." -- Metro, July 7th, 2005

A quite extraordinary novel. The language is so fresh and crisp and sparkling. What a narrative! What a story! -- Philip Pullman

More than a thriller and much more than an homage to the Russian novel. -- M John Harrison, Daily Telegraph

Spellbinding. Though set in the past, feels like the most contemporary fiction you'll ever read... a truly great novel. -- Irvine Welsh, Guardian, 9 June 2005

What is most striking about this ambitious novel is the sheer quality of the writing. -- Maggie Gee, Sunday Times

Book Description

LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2005 --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 13 Jun 2006
Format: Hardcover
I have read other reviews on this book with interest and, to be honest, I can see both sides.

From my own perspective, The People's Act of Love was slow to come together - to see how the various strands inter-related. The first half dragged a little - the second half flew by. It is perhaps true that some of the characters could have been more strongly defined, but only at the expense of the others. The basic premise of four central characters with no one star; no central transaction makes for a complex web of plotlines and more relationships than the typical novel. And this is a story of survival, rather than development.

I don't want to spoil the shocks - although other reviewers have. Mostly they are not delivered as bombshells, but are great crescendoes that have been worked towards over many pages. This may lessen the shock factor, but they add to the authenticity. In any case, the shock elements are really background texture in a novel that is really about human spirit. Ultimately, the book is about non-linear, complex love. It wends contrary patterns, steeped in enormous and graphic detail. The real test, though, is that when the story has ended, the images remain - deeply engrained.

The People's Act of Love is clearly not going to be to everyone's taste. It is not the greatest historical epic ever written. It is not an easy or light read, either. It is a measured and elaborate story, set in an obscure part of history and an obscure part of the world, that slowly works its magic without you realizing. If that is the type of novel that floats your boat (it floats mine) then give it a try. Then perhaps follow it up with This Thing of Darkness by Harry Thompson.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Reuben Los on 16 Feb 2007
Format: Paperback
Rarely before have I read such a diverging set of reviews. One reviewer refers to this book as "ridiculous", someone else calls it "stunning", and another "boring". Allow me to try to make some sense of all this.

Most reviewers find the book well-written, although a few found the language to be slow-going. A novel doesn't need to be an easy read in order to be well-written. I agree that the reading was a little slow at times, but I attribute that to the richness of the language.

The plot and setting are definitely original, and the author can only be given credit for that. The story focuses on the arrival in a small Siberian village of an escaped prisoner, who claims he is pursued by a cannibal. As the novel unfolds, we meet a group of stranded Czech soldiers, a community of eunuchs, and are left wondering who the cannibal really is... Most events, like the presence in Siberia of Czech soldiers, are based on historical fact.

The author spends much of his efforts on character development. He devotes large chunks of the first 150 pages to the lives and background of the various characters. This may give the impression at times that the storyline is going off on a tangent, and can explain why some reviewers found the plot boring or confusing.

However, character development is fundamental to the understanding of the book's main theme, which centers on different people's perception of love and the acts of stupidity and folly it can engender.

I will conclude by agreeing with one reviewer who claims that although all the ingredients were there, the author could perhaps have mixed them better. Had he done so, the book would have been a true masterpiece. A good and entertaining read all the same.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Alexa VINE VOICE on 12 Jun 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is not a cosy little murder mystery. In superficial terms, the plot turns on an isolated community in Siberia discovering that there is a cannibal in their midst. But don't read this if you are looking for yet another 'police procedural' with an exotic setting; this is not a tale of 'good guys' versus 'bad guys'.

Disperate characters act out of conflicting motives; some we might identify with, some may feel very foreign. Those who act out of the purest idealism may perform the actions that a observer would categorise as the most horrific; those characters who at first may seem most alien to us may act out of the simplest motives, the motives with which we can most easily identify.

If the above paragraph seems obscure,it is because I do not want to spoil the twists and turns of the plot for the reader! Other reviewers praise Meek's prose; for me, the strength of his writing lies in his characterisations; he has the ability to make the unusual sympathetic, and the mundane monstrous.

But he does not shy away from the realities of a terrible period - as Meek points out in his afterword, the use of a human "cow" is not an invention of the author's, but a documented practice. Similarly, the Skoptsy self-castration for religious purposes - which seems to so disturb another reviewer! - was an integral belief of this unusual religious sect, who flourished, despite severe persecution for around a hundred years. Personally I find the absence of any concern for human life demonstrated by some of the secular zealots of the story far more chilling.

This is a novel that deals with disturbing ideals, and the lengths to which people will go to achieve them.
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