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The Pesthouse Paperback – 4 Jan 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (4 Jan 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330445634
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330445634
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 183,487 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'...this grimly futuristic piece...finds Jim Crace at his limpid best...done with conviction'
-- Sunday Telegraph Seven

'Crace's engaging characters and well-imagined world are hugely appealing.' -- Telegraph

`A master storyteller who convinces with a tale of social dystopia which is also a beautifully written love story.'
-- Waterstone's Books Quarterly

`Far more elegantly written than the average dystopian future novel.' -- Observer

`Gripping.' -- Sunday Times

Book Description

‘The Pesthouse finds the author not just on his own best form, but arguably the best form any English writer has shown in the last couple of years’ Spectator A devastated America exists in an imagined future. Its technologies are forgotten, its communities have splintered and its refugees, reversing the course of history, travel eastwards in search of safety and a new start. Among them are Franklin and Margaret, young, bereft, forced together by circumstance; but finding that love, courage and determination can endure even as a country breaks slowly apart. ‘Evoking the cracked terrain of a depleted America, Crace proves himself a fine stylist, sensitive to the cadence of every sentence’ Financial Times ‘Entirely compelling. The story is a gripping, harrowing adventure tale and Crace’s language is extraordinary . . . The Pesthouse resonates like an unresolved chord’ New Statesman ‘Gripping, exciting and oddly romantic’ Daily Mail --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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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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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