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The Pesthouse Paperback – 13 May 2008

4.0 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 255 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books USA; Reprint edition (13 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307278956
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307278951
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.4 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,270,592 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

"The Pesthouse exudes a kind of eerie charm." --"Time Out"
"A book that I read hungrily for what it might have to say about the fix we are all in on this planet. . . . Crace's distinctive marked rhythms, just one draft away from blank verse, are at odds with satire. He can't quite extinguish the joy that percolates through all his writing, and The Pesthouse ends up being a lovely literary cipher in the way that Crace's work always is." --Joan Thomas, "The Globe and Mail"
"Crace brings his unsentimental but unflagging imagination to the ruined landscape and battered scavenger societies of this new America. . . . He is especially good at documenting the bodily toll that unrelenting life on the road exacts. . . . Franklin's and Margaret's journey, as brutal and hopeless as it often seems, transforms into a kind of allegory for the human capacity for loyalty, love, humour and imagination." --"Toronto Star"
"[Crace] takes us straight to the heart of what it means to be human. . . . He has always exhibited an uncanny gift for tapping into the horrors that wake us, heart pounding, in the middle of the night. . . . It's a tribute to Crace's skills that we so rapidly get our bearings in a radically altered landscape." --Francine Prose, "The New York Times" Book Review
"Crace has built a loyal following for the old-fashioned reason that he produces consistently dazzling work, matching sublime language with conceptual daring and an insistence on tackling the big themes head-on." --"The Gazette"
"AS Byatt has described [Crace] as the most significant writer in English fiction of the past 10 years and in The Pesthouse he continues to build his self-contained worlds that, inmirroring our own in crucial, though subtle ways, offer up universal insights." --"Scotland on Sunday
""Entirely compelling. The story is a gripping, harrowing adventure tale and Crace's language is extraordinary: he has immersed himself in his own kind of variant American idiom . . . which is simple, often beautiful, as touch and workable as leather. . . . The Pesthouse resonates like an unresolved chord." --"New Statesman
""While the plots and settings vary, Crace's unerringly stunning style doesn't. Even the most mundane of his characters beguile readers with their emotional authenticity and detailed psychologies. His prose carries the contours of a Donatello sculpture as Crace chisels gracefully flowing sentences with eloquence, precision and the occasional cheeky hint of the impish." "The San Francisco Chronicle
""At its heart, The Pesthouse is a meditation on deep questions about America: the costs of relentless expansion, the fate of a wasteful industrial society." --"Los Angeles Times"
"Crace's America lies not in the future but in our uneasy consciences. What's remarkable is the fortitude, grace and patience he grants to the wary people who must make a life there, must remember and love, against all odds." --"Washington Post"
"A writer of hallucinatory skill."
--John Updike
"[Crace] has an almost uncanny ability to nail down a dramatic situation, and the characters to enact it, in one or two sentences. . .one of the best writers around."
--"Toronto Star"

"From the Hardcover edition."

A "GLOBE & MAIL" BEST BOOK OF 2007
"The Pesthouse exudes a kind of eerie charm." --"Time Out"
"A book that I read hungrily for what it might have to say about the fix we are all in on this planet. . . . Crace's distinctive marked rhythms, just one draft away from blank verse, are at odds with satire. He can't quite extinguish the joy that percolates through all his writing, and The Pesthouse ends up being a lovely literary cipher in the way that Crace's work always is." --Joan Thomas, "The Globe and Mail"
"Crace brings his unsentimental but unflagging imagination to the ruined landscape and battered scavenger societies of this new America. . . . He is especially good at documenting the bodily toll that unrelenting life on the road exacts. . . . Franklin's and Margaret's journey, as brutal and hopeless as it often seems, transforms into a kind of allegory for the human capacity for loyalty, love, humour and imagination." --"Toronto Star"
"[Crace] takes us straight to the heart of what it means to be human. . . . He has always exhibited an uncanny gift for tapping into the horrors that wake us, heart pounding, in the middle of the night. . . . It's a tribute to Crace's skills that we so rapidly get our bearings in a radically altered landscape." --Francine Prose, "The New York Times" Book Review
"Crace has built a loyal following for the old-fashioned reason that he produces consistently dazzling work, matching sublime language with conceptual daring and an insistence on tackling the big themes head-on." --"The Gazette"
"AS Byatt has described [Crace] as the most significant writer in English fiction of the past 10 years and in The Pesthouse he continues to buildhis self-contained worlds that, in mirroring our own in crucial, though subtle ways, offer up universal insights." --"Scotland on Sunday
""Entirely compelling. The story is a gripping, harrowing adventure tale and Crace's language is extraordinary: he has immersed himself in his own kind of variant American idiom . . . which is simple, often beautiful, as touch and workable as leather. . . . The Pesthouse resonates like an unresolved chord." --"New Statesman
""While the plots and settings vary, Crace's unerringly stunning style doesn't. Even the most mundane of his characters beguile readers with their emotional authenticity and detailed psychologies. His prose carries the contours of a Donatello sculpture as Crace chisels gracefully flowing sentences with eloquence, precision and the occasional cheeky hint of the impish." "The San Francisco Chronicle
""At its heart, The Pesthouse is a meditation on deep questions about America: the costs of relentless expansion, the fate of a wasteful industrial society." --"Los Angeles Times"
"Crace's America lies not in the future but in our uneasy consciences. What's remarkable is the fortitude, grace and patience he grants to the wary people who must make a life there, must remember and love, against all odds." --"Washington Post"
"A writer of hallucinatory skill."
--John Updike
"[Crace] has an almost uncanny ability to nail down a dramatic situation, and the characters to enact it, in one or two sentences. . .one of the best writers around."
--"Toronto Star"

"From the Hardcover edition."

"A suspenseful road novel. . . . Crace's mordant humor shines darkly. . . .a meditation on some of the deepest questions about America." --"Los Angeles Times Book Review""A cracking adventure story. . . . Crace pulls off a transcendent ending that offers a biting commentary on the ongoing American experiment." --"Entertainment Weekly""Throughout ["The Pesthouse"], a delicate, touching shy romance blossoms....Crace is a writer about plain things, but he writes about them in a way that's both startling and subtle, a shimmering surface over still depths." --"Washington Post Book World""Graceful and haunting. . . . Crace is the coldest of writers, and the tenderest." --"New York Times""A writer of hallucinatory skill." --John Updike

A suspenseful road novel. . . . Crace's mordant humor shines darkly. . . .a meditation on some of the deepest questions about America. "Los Angeles Times Book Review" A cracking adventure story. . . . Crace pulls off a transcendent ending that offers a biting commentary on the ongoing American experiment. "Entertainment Weekly" Throughout ["The Pesthouse"], a delicate, touching shy romance blossoms .Crace is a writer about plain things, but he writes about them in a way that's both startling and subtle, a shimmering surface over still depths. "Washington Post Book World" Graceful and haunting. . . . Crace is the coldest of writers, and the tenderest. "New York Times" A writer of hallucinatory skill. John Updike"

Book Description

From the Booker-shortlisted author of Quarantine. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Paperback
It is very difficult to read "The Pesthouse" without drawing comparisons with Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" - either the book or the film version. McCarthy's spare, haunting approach to an American apocalypse and nightmare vision of the future almost sets the template for this type of fiction, and if you have read that first and then come to Jim Crace's take on things, you may find The Pesthouse wanting for something.

Crace constructs his vision of a post-apocalyptic America with typical precision and skilled use of language. It is easy to imagine the ravaged landscape, but the violence of McCarthy's vision is strangely missing, and as a result The Pesthouse seems to lack a purpose, other than to sketch out a landscape of destruction in some depth.

As with "The Road", the characters here are all heading towards the coast and the potential of ships to a better life, but somewhere along the way The Pesthouse seems to lose direction, and the story gets bogged down in some essentially uninteresting characters. Even the finest prose can become hard work if it doesn't drive a compelling story, and Crace almost gets lost in his own nightmarish world before dragging out a pretty unconvincing conclusion.

Much like the world Crace has created here, the book is hard going, and hard to fathom and ultimately unrewarding.
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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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Format: Paperback
The book is set against the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic America some time after an unspecified catastrophe. This is the main problem with the story as it's not very convincing. Life doesn't seem too bad as there seems to be plenty to eat if you're willing to work, and things seem to have reverted to life as it was around 1800. Despite this, people are all making the long journey to the East Coast in order to take sailing ships to a better life across the sea.

For the majority of the book we follow a couple who are brought together by chance and decide to make the journey together. The book is essentially about what happens to them along the way, but also how they fall in love along the way.

It's a very well written book in terms of the language and style, but it is pretty slow going at times. It was quite an enjoyable read, but didn't really live up to the post-apocalyptic setting that I expected from the blurb as it might as well have been set a couple of hundred years ago.
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