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The Pesthouse: A Novel

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Jim Crace is a writer of spectacular originality and a command of language that moves a reader effortlessly into the world of his imagination. In The Pesthouse he imagines an America of the future where a man and a woman trek across a devastated and dangerous landscape, finding strength in each other and an unexpected love.

Once the safest, most prosperous place on earth, the United States is now a lawless, scantly populated wasteland. The machines have stopped. The government has collapsed. Farmlands lie fallow and the soil is contaminated by toxins. Across the country, families have packed up their belongings to travel eastward toward the one hope left: passage on a ship to Europe.

Franklin Lopez and his brother, Jackson, are only days away from the ocean when Franklin, nearly crippled by an inflamed knee, is forced to stop. In the woods near his temporary refuge, Franklin comes upon an isolated stone building. Inside he finds Margaret, a woman with a deadly infection and confined to the Pesthouse to sweat out her fever. Tentatively, the two join forces and make their way through the ruins of old America. Confronted by bandits rounding up men for slavery, finding refuge in the Ark, a religious community that makes bizarre demands on those they shelter, Franklin and Margaret find their wariness of each other replaced by deep trust and an intimacy neither one has ever experienced before.

The Pesthouse is Jim Crace's most compelling novel to date. Rich in its understanding of America's history and ethos, it is a paean to the human spirit.

Review:

"[A] thoughtful and exciting post-apocalyptic tale....Crace, an award-winning British writer who should be more widely appreciated, manages to give depth and complexity to characters in a post-literate society who are practically nonverbal." Library Journal

Review:

"Equal parts allegory, adventure story and rich meditation on existence, The Pesthouse imagines a place on the Dream Highway where the best in human nature always has a path. For that it serves as perfect complement — and tonic — to The Road." Chicago Sun-Times

Review:

"Less spare and more idiosyncratic, this new book risks being swamped in the tsunami of publicity for The Road. And that would be a shame, because The Pesthouse boasts three noteworthy features that McCarthy's story lacks: women characters, a smooth landing and some sly humor to leaven the bleakness. If for no other reason, read it to compare." Seattle Times

Review:

"The Pesthouse is no less a dark envisioning, though it lacks the startling high-wire act of Being Dead, creating instead a tooth-and-claw society in the wilds of America, somewhere on the other side of global catastrophe." Boston Globe

Review:

"Crace can write amazingly well, as he did in Being Dead. When he's on, as he often is here, the results are stellar." Francine Prose, The New York Times Book Review

Review:

"McCarthy may have cornered the market on blood-red prose that captures postapocalyptic violence and horror, but Crace provides an equally intriguing vision that seems less frenzied but not too sanguine." San Francisco Chronicle

Review:

"The journey in The Pesthouse is quite different from that in Cormac McCarthy's recent book, The Road, though both run through postapocalyptic landscapes....Mr. Crace is the coldest of writers, and the tenderest." Richard Eder, The New York Times

Review:

"The Pesthouse is never funny, but Crace's mordant humor shines darkly, making it both provocative and winsome." Los Angeles Times

About the Author

Jim Crace is the author of eight previous novels. Being Dead was shortlisted for the 1999 Whitbread Fiction Prize and won the U.S. National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in 2000. In 1997, Quarantine was named the Whitbread Novel of the Year and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Jim Crace has also received the Whitbread First Novel Prize, the E. M. Forster Award, and the Guardian Fiction Prize. He lives in Birmingham, England.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Grady Harp, July 2, 2007 (view all comments by Grady Harp)
'Dreamers do not want advice.'

Jim Crace takes more risks in his stories than most authors writing today. In THE PESTHOUSE he manages to create a love story with seeds in disease, death, futuristic semi-annihilation of America, and a reversal of the concept of immigration. And the primary reason he is able to succeed in his books (BEING DEAD, QUARANTINE, THE DEVIL'S LARDER, GENESIS, etc) is his uncanny gift of flowing poetic prose that can make even the most terrifying and horrendous sights and incidents an exciting literary experience.

The time of this powerful novel is sometime in the future, a time when for some unstated reason the place called America has been reduced to 'junkle', the lands being destroyed by some form of disaster (? nuclear, defoliation, uncontrolled disease?) and all that remains of the once highly technologically advanced country is debris and starving people, all struggling to migrate to the East Coast (reverse pioneerism) to board a ship to Europe for the dreams of a better life. Disease and famine are rampant and one of the victims of the deadly disease 'flux' is Margaret, a plain woman approaching middle age without ever having a lover or caring partner: she is place in The Pesthouse on Butter Hill to die. At the same time two virile brothers, Jackson and Franklin, are migrating to the East Coast, but Franklin suffers a severe knee injury and is forced to let his brother go ahead without him. Franklin seeks refuge in the Pesthouse, finds Margaret near death, and despite the possibility of contagion, nurses her to health. As the completely shaved Margaret shows signs of improvement, the two agree to gather goods from Margaret's nearby hometown Ferrytown and begin the long journey to 'freedom and promise' on the East Coast.

Ferrytown has succumbed to 'flux' and Franklin and Margaret burn the little village in an act of cremation of the inhabitants. Their trek East is disrupted by evil men who separate the two, enslaving Franklin and forcing Margaret to seek refuge with other terrified migrants, one of whom has a newborn grandchild whose father was captured into slavery with Franklin, and Margaret eventually becomes the little girl's guardian. There are extended stretches of incidents: Margaret and baby Bella take refuge in an Ark run by Baptists whose life is one without metals (the sign of the devil, read technological greed) but provide a socialist style living quarters for the winter months; Franklin is chained into slavery on work crews, one of the jobs being to excavate the buried evil metals discarded by the Baptists. Come Spring and by accident Margaret and Franklin reunite and alter their goal of sailing to Europe to opt for turning West to create a life of what America once was.

Some readers may tire of the recent number of books about post-devastation America (Cormac McCarthy's THE ROAD paints a similar concept), but Crace is able to make a rather grim novel one of very pure love. He also is able to conjure thoughts that make us look around our earth and visualize what could happen should we elect not to change our current course of global and human abuse. His story also gives a quiet but healthy pause for us to feel the other side of the immigration dilemma: the remaining people are struggling to leave their land of hardship for the Gilead of Europe. And overriding all other aspects of this exceptional novel is Jim Crace's grace with prose. Highly recommended. Grady Harp
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780385520751
Author:
Crace, Jim
Publisher:
Nan A. Talese
Subject:
Literary
Copyright:
Publication Date:
May 2007
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
272
Dimensions:
9.56x6.56x.99 in. 1.16 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Mystery » A to Z

The Pesthouse: A Novel Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$4.95 In Stock
Product details 272 pages Nan A. Talese - English 9780385520751 Reviews:
"Review" by , "[A] thoughtful and exciting post-apocalyptic tale....Crace, an award-winning British writer who should be more widely appreciated, manages to give depth and complexity to characters in a post-literate society who are practically nonverbal."
"Review" by , "Equal parts allegory, adventure story and rich meditation on existence, The Pesthouse imagines a place on the Dream Highway where the best in human nature always has a path. For that it serves as perfect complement — and tonic — to The Road."
"Review" by , "Less spare and more idiosyncratic, this new book risks being swamped in the tsunami of publicity for The Road. And that would be a shame, because The Pesthouse boasts three noteworthy features that McCarthy's story lacks: women characters, a smooth landing and some sly humor to leaven the bleakness. If for no other reason, read it to compare."
"Review" by , "The Pesthouse is no less a dark envisioning, though it lacks the startling high-wire act of Being Dead, creating instead a tooth-and-claw society in the wilds of America, somewhere on the other side of global catastrophe."
"Review" by , "Crace can write amazingly well, as he did in Being Dead. When he's on, as he often is here, the results are stellar."
"Review" by , "McCarthy may have cornered the market on blood-red prose that captures postapocalyptic violence and horror, but Crace provides an equally intriguing vision that seems less frenzied but not too sanguine."
"Review" by , "The journey in The Pesthouse is quite different from that in Cormac McCarthy's recent book, The Road, though both run through postapocalyptic landscapes....Mr. Crace is the coldest of writers, and the tenderest."
"Review" by , "The Pesthouse is never funny, but Crace's mordant humor shines darkly, making it both provocative and winsome."
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