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The Pesthouse by Jim Crace
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The Pesthouse (edition 2007)

by Jim Crace

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7053413,430 (3.51)68
Member:KromesTomes
Title:The Pesthouse
Authors:Jim Crace
Info:Nan A. Talese (2007), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 272 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:fiction, apocalypse

Work details

The Pesthouse by Jim Crace

  1. 20
    The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (47degreesnorth)
    47degreesnorth: More literary and more detailed characters. Post-apocalyptic.
  2. 10
    Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (urania1)
    urania1: If you enjoy dystopian fiction or long for "literary" science fiction, read this book. It deals with the big questions, namely can people retain their humanity in dehumanizing conditions?
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If I were to arrange my books thematically, this one would slip alongside Frazier’s ‘Cold Mountain’, McCarthy’s ‘The Road’ and Steinbeck's 'The Grapes of Wrath', picaresque novels as all three are and sharing an ever-present sense of danger from the troubled times in which they’re set. The embryonic romance between Margaret and Franklin perhaps mirrors that between Frazier’s Ada and Inman but the futuristic post-cataclysmic trek matches McCarthy’s novel with this one of Crace.

Unlike the hopelessness of the father and son’s situation in ‘The Road’, the reader is allowed some hope in ‘The Pesthouse’, although the reunion between Margaret and Franklin two-thirds of the way through the novel made me feel that there were too many pages left to avoid things going seriously awry again. In fact at this stage in the book I was anxious to get to the end but didn’t really want to read on with so much overhanging the outcome. I preferred the opening. Even though Crace wipes out a whole village with a flood, he allows the reader to focus on the survivors – and of course survival stories are always attractive.

Where this one differs from the other three is in how sentimental it is. While I guess most readers want happy endings, it’s those where both close relationships are celebrated and life’s inevitabilities are faced that affect us more and stay with the reader longer. While the half dozen or so of Crace’s books that I’ve read are all very different, a tribute to the power of his imagination, I don’t think any are as sentimental as this one – which leaves me wondering why he chose this view of life. I think the understated closeness and questioning of father and son in McCarthy's novel shows how powerful it can be to infer rather than describe strong emotions. Margaret's pet-name for Franklin ('Pigeon'), his shortening of her name ('Mags') and then the mare even getting a name ('Swim') just overdoes it, however realistic is this penchant in most of us for sentimentality in our lives. Nonetheless, it’s once again Crace's ability to conjure up a world apart but parallel to our own that is effective and perhaps he needed to write this book in order to pare it down later in his rightly acclaimed 'Harvest'. ( )
  evening | Mar 16, 2014 |
To be fair, this has the potential to get better. But I opted to stop reading. There are too many books.

How many books have I started and failed to finish in the last 5 years? 3. It's not terrible to be on that list (the others are highly respected), but this one... meh. It's not even awful, it's just dull. 60 pages in, I though to myself, you know what? "I could be reading The Road. I could be watching the Walking Dead. I might go do one of those things." And that was it for the pesthouse, its ineffectually 'poetic' language, its two dimensional characters, and its s......................l..........................o.............................................w tempo. I say that as someone who loves Henry James. Slow can be good. But not here. ( )
1 vote stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
Very Cormac McCarthy-esque. His prose is spare but with great intent. Although not as crushingly depressing as The Road, the book nonetheless filled me with sadness and longing, which was likely the point of this fictional tale of post-apocalyptic America. ( )
  keithkv | Oct 3, 2013 |
Crace's novel The Pesthouse is a love story set against the backdrop of an America centuries in the future, long after some calamity has wiped away our technological culture and the nation-state known as the United States. What ancestral memory remains is shroulded in legend and myth. America has become a thinly-populated land ravaged by disease and prowled by bands of brutal men in search of plunder, whether in material form such as valuable metal objects or in human form as women to be raped and young men to be enslaved.

Amidst this grim setting, two young people, a woman named Margaret, consigned to a pesthouse as she suffers from a malady resembling the plague, and a younger man named Franklin, separated from his brother in their journey to the Atlantic coast and the ships bound for Europe, meet and become companiions and platonic lovers. Franklin and Margaret are torn apart when they are set upon by a band of thieves and slavers. After a hard winter, they are reunited. Margaret has "adopted" a baby girl left in her custody, another love story.

They learn a hard truth upon reaching the coast and then turn back to build new lives as a family in the interior of America. Despite the violence and squalor Crace depicts in the novel, there are also passages of lyrical beauty describing the land, moments of tenderness and sweet humor among the family, and episodes in which compassion and empathy prevail over the savagery of a land of hardness and danger. This wild and harsh America of the future is still a land that can inspire hope in those restless adventurers willing to push out toward the horizon. ( )
  ChuckNorton | May 19, 2013 |
I read the first few chapters and simply couldn't understand the author's vernacular. Therefore, I had a hard time getting into the story and couldn't finish it. To be fair, I give this a 3-star rating (It's OK). It's not a bad story, but it doesn't appear to be exciting either. If you are not use to Crace's unique style of writing you will likely have a difficult time understanding The Pesthouse like I did. ( )
  gdill | May 16, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
Crace revels in putting his protagonists in rough spots and watching their survival instincts take over.
 
Where Crace’s first, Calvino-inspired novel, “Continent,” conjured an imaginary continent through the sheer poetry of language, “The Pesthouse” is blandly and perfunctorily narrated, as if in the debased speech of Dogpatch . . .

The book’s droll, mock-tall-tale tone soon grates: it isn’t clear whether Crace wants us to feel sympathy for his characters or laugh at them as fools who have brought their collective doom upon themselves.
 
So it wasn’t any affront to my delicate, jingoistic sensibilities that kept making me put down “The Pesthouse.” Days would pass before I picked it up again to learn Pigeon and Mags’s fate. I hoped things would work out for them, but I didn’t much need to know.
 
The Pesthouse finds the author not just on his own best form, but arguably on the best form any English writer has shown in the last couple of years.
added by MikeBriggs | editThe Spectator, Simon Baker (Mar 15, 2007)
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385520751, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:53:27 -0400)

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This story is about America two hundred years in the future, a future without technology.

(summary from another edition)

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