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The Peoples' Unlikely Acts
on 22 October 2013
The People's Act of Love is set, for the most part, in the Siberian town of Yazyk in 1919. The town has been taken over by a legion of Czech soldiers facing the imminent arrival of the revolutionary army. The principal story, however, revolves around the arrival of Samarin, a revolutionary convict who has escaped from a prison camp known as the White Garden. Yazyk is home to an unusual religious cult and the 'widow' of its main proponent.
Meek has taken three historical elements; the Czech legion in Siberia; the presence of castrates in Russia; and the occurrence of cannibalism in the wilderness to develop a complex story set in the unrelenting cold of Siberia. In part he manages to carry this off; the unforgiving landscape; the tensions within the Czech legion; and the characterisation of Samarin, the mysterious escaped convict work for some of the novel. Sadly the book's complexity is also its fundamental weakness. In order to bring these various extreme plot lines to a satisfactory conclusion, the various characters have to behave in peculiar ways and thereby lose credibility. As a result the ending is contrived and the reader feels cheated. Added to the implausible plot, the writing is not of a high standard. There are many sentences which make no sense at all, bizarre allusions, such as Sherlock Holmes hat. This, together with dubious dialogue and motivation make this a mediocre novel.