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

3.7 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; First edition (7 July 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845058356
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841956541
  • ASIN: 1841956546
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 13.8 x 4.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 415,696 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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By Lonya TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 10 Mar. 2006
Format: Paperback
such as we may come across here and there in the world, is unmixed with compassion. The more we love, the more the object of our love seems to us to be a victim.”
Yuri Zhivago, who uttered these words in Boris Pasternak’s classic tale Dr. Zhivago, would no doubt find common bond with the setting and characters that inhabit James Meek’s wonderful book “The People’s Act of Love”.
Most of the People’s Act is set in 1919 in the village of Yazyk, in Siberia. To call Yazyk the middle of nowhere is to give it too much credit. Russia, now the USSR, is in the midst of its post-revolutionary civil war that has caused untold deaths and facilitated illnesses and famine. Yazyk’s end-of-the earth location does not insulate it entirely from these events. The town is run by a stranded division of a Czechoslovakian Legion with no apparent means to return to Prague subsequent to the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Legion is commanded by Captain Matula who for all intents and purposes is both insane and sadistic. The civilians in the town consist mainly of a mystic sect of eunuchs (the “Skoptsy”) who believe their self-immolation removes the one body part responsible for most of the world’s sins. As far fetched as this may seem, the presence of stranded Czech soldiers and the existence of a sect of castrati inhabiting parts of Siberia is a matter of record and was not a piece of fiction created by Meek solely for this novel.
The town is also inhabited by Anna Petrovna, who appears to be a widow, and her son. The Red Army is making its way towards Yazyk and intends to seek revenge for an act of brutality committed by the Czechs. A younger stranger, Samarin, makes his way into the town.
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