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The Pesthouse Hardcover – 2 Mar 2007

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; First Edition edition (2 Mar 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330445626
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330445627
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 13.4 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 947,573 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By John Self on 7 Mar 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jim Crace is an orderly, methodical writer (his friend Will Self said: "I wouldn't dream of saying that Jim's study demonstrates anal retention, but his marker pens are colour-coded and the distance between his keyboard and chair is painstakingly measured out"), so it's a surprise that the wait for his new novel, The Pesthouse, doubled the usual metronomic two-year gap between his books. It had better be good.

In fact, it had better be better than Cormac McCarthy's recently lauded The Road, because superficially the two have a lot in common. Both are set in a post-apocalyptic America, with straggling survivors battling against the collapse of civilisation and doing their best to evade marauding bandits. Like McCarthy's unnamed man and boy, the characters in The Pesthouse are heading for the coast, where they hope for... what? "We go. We carry on. That's what we have to do."

But where McCarthy produced an immersive, devastating fable, Crace has set his sights wider: and lighter. There are some threats in his story, but few real moments of terror, and his world is more colourful, because his language is too. Anyone who has read Crace before will know what to expect: a rhythmic and mythic prose, full of off-kilter but just-so detail. Dawn is "at the very moment that the owl became the cock;" seagulls are "stocky, busy, labouring, their bony wings weighted at the tips with black;" the ocean is "one great weeping eye. On clear days, we can see the curve of it."

One difficulty with this rich style is that often the drama, emotion or other engine of the story can be blocked out by it. You are so conscious of the beauty of the words that they stay on the surface of your mind without always sinking in.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By D. Harrington on 21 Mar 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is a well-written novel with a lot of interesting ideas, scenes, and well-drawn characters. I read it avidly, enjoyed it, but without genuinely caring for the fortunes of the two main characters as they searched for a better life elsewhere. It has been compared with Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" as both deal with a pair of characters, bound together by love, travelling through post-apocalyptic lands in search of better fortune. Having read "The Road" immediately before this, I feel this is by far the lesser work and, in particular, it fails on two levels. The first is that the setting is unconvincing. This is supposed to be a post-technological future version of America, descended from some undisclosed apocalyptic catastrophe. However, there is nothing to convince the reader that things are actually all that wrong with the world. There's plenty to eat, animal and plant life abounds, and there are plenty of people around. So why no government, technology, education or information, etc? Seems things are OK on one side of a river and a lawless jungle on the other. The reader is at a loss to work out why and it's hard to accept it. Put simply the world of the Pesthouse is not a convincing one. The second problem is that there is something in the writing that makes you feel that the dangers faced by the protagonists are superficial and there is little doubt cast in the reader's mind that they will prevail. Compare this to "The Road": that novel's unrelenting bleakness, its horrificly godless world of death is totally convincing; and its ability to conjure an absolute dread of reading on - made even worse by the father's desperate and primal drive to simply keep his beloved son alive (to "carry the fire") in a dying world where the handful of surviving men and women are reduced to starving lunatics, killing and eating each other - is stunning. In comparison, this doesn't really hit the spot.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Mr. E. Neil on 8 May 2007
Format: Hardcover
'The Pesthouse' is packed with all the rich trace elements you would expect from a work by Jim Crace. Few writers have the courage let alone the ability to effortlessly surf the waves of time, reality and imagination with such grace as this writer does. Pesthouse sees the creation of yet another dreamed up world, eerily familiar, astonishingly real but surprisingly different. We do not need to know how the once great America has plunged into medieval torpor. We need only savour the sublime narrative that describes this uncertain and often cruel future, punctuated by two of Crace's most vibrant characters to date - the indomitable 'Red' Margaret and lumbering, bashful Franklin Lopez. Throughout their struggle for survival and a better tomorrow, theirs becomes a love that proves to be remarkably tender, enduring and real. With Pesthouse, Crace has created his most fascinating vista yet and, as always, he invites you in to fill the tantalizing gaps he leaves behind.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 2 Oct 2009
Format: Paperback
The time is the far future in an America which has broken down into something resembling its incarnation. Machines have fallen into disrepair, cities are rubble, but a surging tide of humanity flows eastwards, towards the ocean and the sailing ships which, they have heard, take them across the ocean to a cleaner and more promising land.

Joining the tide come two young brothers, Jackson and Franklin, but Franklin has somehow hobbled his knee on the journey and has to rest, so it is Jackson alone who goes down into Ferrytown that night. Franklin sits in the cold and rainy forest, hoping his knee will have mended enough for him to join his brother in the morning. Instead, he finds the pesthouse, where Mags, a young woman with the flux has been incarcerated in the hope that she will be able to survive the dangers of the disease without contaminating her relatives and neighbours.

But something terrible happens in Ferrytown that night, an occurrence that throws the sickly Mags and Franklin together so firmly that privations such as near-starvation and robbery and the acquisition of a small baby abandoned by its grandparents, and even a forced separation by slave-taking criminals, cannot alter.

This brilliantly compelling novel reads like a real-life adventure and is told in lucid descriptive prose that conveys the atmosphere of danger, desperation and hope - and the slowly maturing love for each other - in which the two protagonists undertake their journey. It is a moving and very human story with a subtle surprise near the end.
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