From Publishers Weekly
In this postapocalyptic picaresque from Whitbread-winner Crace (for Quarantine
), America has regressed to medieval conditions. After a forgotten eco-reaction in the distant past, the U.S. government, economy and society have collapsed. The illiterate inhabitants ride horses, fight with bows and swords and scratch a meager living from farming and fishing. But with crop yields and fish runs mysteriously dwindling, most are trekking to the Atlantic coast to take ships to the promised land of Europe, gawking along the way at the ruins of freeways and machinery yards, which seem the wasteful excesses of giants. Heading east, naïve farm boy Franklin teams up with Margaret, a recovering victim of the mysterious "flux" whose shaven head (mark of the unclean) causes passersby to shun her. Their love blossoms amid misadventures in an anarchic landscape: Franklin is abducted by slave-traders; Margaret falls in with a religious sect that bans metal and deplores manual labor, symbolically repudiating America's traditional cult of progress, technology and industriousness (masculinity takes some hits, too). Crace's ninth novel leaves the U.S. impoverished, backward, fearful and abandoned by history. Less crushing than Cormac McCarthy's The Road
and less over-the-top than Matthew Sharpe's Jamestown
(to name two recent postapocalyptos), Crace's fable is an engrossing, if not completely convincing, outline of the shape of things to come. (May)
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Most critics compared The Pesthouse
to Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize?winning The Road
(****1/2 Nov/Dec 2006). While The Pesthouse
is equally devastating in its postapocalyptic vision, the novel, less spare in its sensory descriptions, contains a mordant wit and rounded female characters. Jim Crace, the author of eight previous novels (including the 2000 National Book Critics Circle Award?winning Being Dead
), compellingly chronicles a reverse migration and abandoned moral codes while raising important questions about self-preservation, industrial expansion, and our responsibility toward others. A few quibbles: some critics cited stereotypical characters, and others noted that while compelling, Crace's subject matter has been covered in better novels.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.