Book info

The People's Act Of Love (2006)

The People's Act of Love (2006)
Author
Rating
3.74 of 5 Votes: 1
ISBN
1841958778 (ISBN13: 9781841958774)
languge
English
publisher
canongate u.s.
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The People's Act Of Love (2006)
The People's Act Of Love (2006)

About book: The People's Act of Love is a very strange book with a very tangled and complicated plot. It takes place in a small village in Siberia during the time of the Russian Revolution. One would think that this piece of information would get the reader started fairly well on having a sense of time and place and the sorts of things that might be likely to happen next. But one would be wrong. I started this book and put it down and started it again and put it down again, at least three times. Everyone I recommend it to describes the same situation, in which every attempt to read it ends up in a frustrated confusion or irritation that leads to its eventual abandonment...until it is picked up again and finally a point is reached at which the confusion becomes more interesting than confusing. It then moves on to become so strangely compelling that one must call all of one's friends to say "You must read this book! But it won't make any sense at all and it will take you at least four attempts before you actually finish it. But you must read it!"Part of the problem is that the point of view shifts every chapter between completely incomprehensible groups of people. There is a group of marooned Czech soldiers who remain in the Siberian village even though the war is over, there is a mystical sect of Christian eunuchs, an escapee from a Russian prison camp, a shaman, a beautiful widowed woman who is not really a widow, and the Red Army making its way across the tundra to exact revenge upon the town for an act of brutality commited by the Czech soldiers. All of these lives are intertwined in ways too complicated to explain here. And everything takes place over just a few days.Somehow this all works, though, to create a story that is really about humanity—all that is beautiful and good and all that is horrifying. There is insanity and fanatacism, and love and compassion and murder and lust and sacrifice and honor. And did I mention cannibalism? Because there's cannibalism too.Furthermore, James Meeks manages to put this whole deranged plot together in a way that is not only heartbreakingly beautiful, but also funny. There a moments of absurdist humor here that completely surprised me, seeming to come out of nowhere, yet fitting perfectly into the story as if it couldn't have been any other way.EXCERPT:"The lieutenant gave him twenty strokes of the knout and stuck him in a cage for a few days till the snow was ankle deep. He lost a couple of toes. They turned black and the surgeon cut them off like a cook trimming a potato. Tolik said it was nothing terrible, he still had eight left, and the doctor gave him a swig of spirit before each one, so he asked him to take them all off, slowly, in return for 100 grammes of alcohol for each one and he'd settle for the pain to wash it down with, but the doctor said he hardly had enough spirit left for himself till the thaw came, and what would he do with eight healthy toes now that the ground was hard and he couldn't bury them, he'd have to burn them. He was afraid they'd come back to haunt him, eight ghostly Christian toes pattering up to his mattress in the moonlight."

this is a fabulous book, and i cannot remember the last novel that instilled such a response within me. you know sometimes i think i am kind of stingy with my stars .... but this is why .... so that when i read something like The People's Act of Love, and i give those five stars it means something.i saw another member had posted a one sentence review. 'what you expect from Russian novels that gets lost in the translation.' given that i have never read an original Russian as well as it's translation, i can't say that this comment is true ... but it feels true. it isn't just that The People's Act is a fabulous story or has intriguing ideas and characters, or that you learn a lot about the Russian state of affairs during those slippery years overlapping W.W.I. and the Revolution, it is the language in which Meek gives you all of those things. that is what will take your breath away. there are so many examples i could give, so many descriptive paragraphs that are so stunningly created and executed and -although many of the scenes Meek describes are brutal- filled with beauty. here are a couple examples: "... trust with the captain was something which only applied retrospectively. You trust that he had not killed you, rather than that he would not". "His mind was having difficulty accommodating what was taking place. It was used to counting imaginary paces forward into possible futures and returning with the news of what it had seen. Now his imagination sent messenger after messenger forward down the only possible road and none of them came back". and lastly this one about messages from headquarters that never came: "Maybe it came down the telegraph and got stopped where the wire was cut by partisians, or got incinerated in a battle in a city along the way, or was used by a looter to roll a cigarette in, or was just blow away by the wind, and went flying through the trees in the taiga and got stuck in the branches of a stunted larch and made into the lining for a squirrel's nest. So two years ago we heard there'd been a revolution but the revolutionaries were loyal to the war, so we were still prisoners. Then last year we heard the revolutionaries weren't loyal to the Czar and the war, but they were about to be destroyed by the Whites, who were, so were still prisoners. And because Russia was now at war with itself, rather than Germany, there would be even less food".so many of the books i read -while enjoyable enough at the time- end up blurring into so may other books that were also enjoyable at the time ... so that.... after a year or so i remember i read a particular book but cannot accurately distinguish it from others. The People's Act of Love WILL NEVER EVER be confused with any other.
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Reviews
Hailly
This was an amazing book once you got into it. This book is totally worth it but the begining chapters are very confusing/boring. However, becuase of this when everything came together it made it that much more exciting. This book is about several different characters who throughout the book realize who they are, who they love and the meaning of life. This book sounds a little mushy but its not. The author is very real which makes the book easy to relate to. I would suggest that everyone read this book.
Margaret Ross
I thought the first chapter of this book was perfect. It was its own small, beautiful work of art within a larger story.The story was, at times, too far out for me. Then again, I've read enough non-fiction to know that there are few things "too far out" when it comes to the extremes of human behavior. People do amazing things in pursuit of faith and survival. People also become very cruel animals under circumstances that need not be extreme at all.I left the book most appreciative of the display of the many, complicated ways in which people try to show love (romantic, platonic, religious) for their fellow man. The book also displays how quickly and how innocently we can completely lose our humanity, become monsters. But when I dwell on this book, and I do, I'd rather dwell on the formar than the latter.
Ryan
Don't be turned off by the seemingly mawkish title. This is not a ready-for-telemovie book, but a dark historical novel about the Russian civil war, a castration cult and cannibalism. Ordinarily, I'm suspicious of 'historical' fiction as it is often an genre in which the author tries to play out some thought experiment with no regard for the period. In contrast, Meek has proved to be very sensitive the era. Meek's sensitivity and humanity as a writer runs so deep that he is able to write about a movement which lesser writers would merely misuse as a curiosity, whereas Meek is able to weave this fervor into the reality of the world he represents. In terms of style, he has found a balance between an attention to detail and a lightness of touch. The wasteland of Siberia is evoked without you feeling saturated in detail. A very worthwhile read.
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