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The Pesthouse (Vintage) [Kindle Edition]

Jim Crace
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $5.01 (33%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Once the safest, most prosperous place on earth, the United States has become sparsely populated and chaotically unstable. Across the country, families have traveled toward the one hope left: passage on a ship to Europe. As Franklin Lopez makes his way towards the ocean, he finds Margaret, a sick woman shunned to die in isolation. Tentatively, the two join forces, heading towards their future. With striking prose and a deep understanding of the American ethos, Jim Crace, one of our most consistently ambitious writers, creates in The Pesthouse a masterful tale of the human drive to endure.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

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.

Product Details

  • File Size: 298 KB
  • Print Length: 274 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0307278956
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (May 11, 2008)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00199RHFC
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #408,095 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
73 of 77 people found the following review helpful
America the Beautiful in ruins, there are no cities, no skyscrapers in what has become a distinctly medieval landscape, travelers on foot and with laden carts, horses and donkeys replacing the frantic cacophony of a world reduced to the basic elements of survival. Knives, bows and arrows have replaced the stuttering menace of assault weapons, the steady roar of jets extinguished. Now weary folk trek eastward, toward the ocean where they hope to cross to Europe. Followed only by disease and want, superstition takes the place of science, the land demanding payment for its generosity, farmers valuable for their knowledge of the soil. In Ferrytown, the needs of travelers have bestowed a constant source of income for those industrious enough to build their town around ferrying and hostelry. Pestilence visits Ferrytown intermittently, the only recent victim thirty-year-old Margaret, whose own father died from the flux that now excoriates her every breath. Left to recover, or not, in the small, removed hut of the pesthouse, Margaret slumbers, fevered.

Brothers Franklin and Jackson Lopez have left their home in the west at the behest of their widowed mother. The brothers are notable for their size, seen as giants compared to other men, their muscles and brawn valuable barter along the way. When Franklin's aching knee will no longer support their journey without rest, Jackson goes ahead to Ferrytown, where he finds respite and sustenance for the night. But fate has other plans for Ferrytown, a great looming upheaval of natural confluences. Meanwhile, discovering the ailing woman in the pesthouse, Franklin shelters with her, the two forging an unexpected alliance; together they will travel across a barren, mud-slogged landscape, the rich natural resources of the old America long extinct.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flawless! August 21, 2007
I will skip all introductory preamble and move straight on to several opinionated statements ? The Pesthouse, by Jim Crace, is an absolutely superb novel. Best I've read in a long time!
I loved it. I savoured, yet devoured it.
I didn't want it to end, yet raced my way to its last page and I must conclude that anyone who thinks it worthy of less than five stars out of five is no friend of mine!
There. With that out of the way...

In this, the first novel by Crace I have ever read, post-apocalyptic America has been so long destroyed by some sort of un-named ecological disaster that the surviving population has reverted to a frontier, pioneering manner of life.
Gone [and seemingly long-forgotten] is the age [our own] of automation and electricity. No cars or planes, no big buildings or mass communication.
It is an America in shut-down mode, where a donkey is an extravagance.
It is an inversion of the American Dream, a reversal of Manifest Destiny, and nearly a return to the Dark Ages.
However, civilization's demise is not global, or so the inhabitants of Crace's America [and we readers] are led to believe. Legend has it that across the sea, in Europe, things are not so bad. Whatever has happened to America has not happened there. Europe is the new Promised Land, and hopeful Americans become pilgrims, making their way east where they believe they will board ships that will ferry them to their prosperous future.

Toward this utopia, the Lopez brothers, Franklin and Jackson, are making their way.
At a crucial point just outside Ferrytown, Franklin cannot go on, due to his bum knee. [Man, I could really relate to this guy, having a rickety knee myself!
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An easy book to set aside May 17, 2007
By Patrick
This was my first exposure to Mr. Crace's work, and I was a bit disappointed. This dystopian novel follows the fortunes of two people, Franklin and Margaret, who are thrown together against fate in an America apparently devastated by pollution and war, a land where everyone is either slogging their way eastward across the ravaged land to seek ocean passage to Europe, or preying upon the would-be emigrants. While there were a few inventive takes on post-cataclysmic America, I found the story's development to be slow, the writing sometimes tedious, the dissertations on the characters' thinking in various situations way too wordy, and the lapses in logic often implausible. As reviewer Francine Prose wrote of Franklin and Margaret in a NY Times review, "I hoped things would work out for them, but I didn't much need to know." Given the author's reputation, I hung in there even though this was an easy book to set aside. At the end of it all, I felt it was rather a poor investment of my time.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Written but Predictable and a Bit Aimless September 24, 2007
One thing that's key to understand going into this book is that it's all about tone and feeling, and not about details or logic. To a certain extent, the reader just has to accept the world that Crace has presented, and not try to figure it out. This was a big struggle for me as I started it, since most stories (be they books or films) set in a post-apocalyptic world either explain how the world got that way, or use the mystery of the "why/how" as a major plot device. Here, Crace simply posits a greatly depopulated America some two-hundred years in the future (according to an interview I read) which has been thrust back into a kind of early 19th-century existence, only with almost no technology and no written language. There are intimations of a widespread plague, and some kind of permanent crop failures, but just hints, nothing concrete. Elements of this make no sense at all -- especially the loss of technology and writing -- but you just have to go with it.

The book follows two people through this landscape where there is no government or rule of law beyond rudimentary local customs and practices. Franklin is a young man from somewhere out West, who has left the homestead to make his way to the East Coast, where there are apparently ships that take people to a better life in Europe. Margaret is a 30ish spinster whose family, according to custom, kicks her out of their fairly prosperous town when she manifests symptoms of the plague. The two are thrust together by fate, and embark on a perilous quest eastward for a better life. Their journey is filled with the expected trials and tribulations (bandits, betrayal, slavers, separation, physical hardship, etc.), but the story is told in such a way that it is clear the two will end up back together by the end.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Let down
In a world that has endless opportunities to display imagery, Crace lets us down and instead gives a story that doesn't really excite and characters that the reader doesn't connect... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Kevin Hoag
5.0 out of 5 stars incandescent
Reader, the story is not so complicated as made out by other reviewers, nor is the apocalyptic vision particularly new. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Owen Brown
3.0 out of 5 stars I apparently wanted this book to be THE ROAD; it's not
This book is not THE ROAD. I wish it were THE ROAD. That's what I kept finding myself thinking as I read THE PESTHOUSE--this would be better if it were THE ROAD. Read more
Published 11 months ago by the17pointscale
2.0 out of 5 stars Volumes of internal monologue that speak sentences
The obvious comparison is with McCarthy's The Road, and it isn't a favourable one. Crace writes beautiful prose, but he knows it, and he doesn't feel like he needs a plot. Read more
Published 15 months ago by G
3.0 out of 5 stars Unique Style But Difficult to Understand
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. Read more
Published 20 months ago by G. Dill
2.0 out of 5 stars Forgettable
It was okay, but not fantastic. The style was a little simplistic - as if it were written for young adults. Read more
Published on November 18, 2011 by T. Dotts
5.0 out of 5 stars not in-your-face post-apoc, very subtle
really cute lve story in the 4th or so generation after a post-apoc. reminded me of the oregon trail journey only this is west to east. Read more
Published on April 9, 2011 by apocalypse blonde
2.0 out of 5 stars I didn't finish
At first I found the novel interesting, but even then I questioned what I was getting out of it since the characters were so flat. Read more
Published on August 24, 2010 by algo41
5.0 out of 5 stars Read in one sitting
I spent a very special Saturday with this book. I won't go over the plot again-it's been explained to death up above-but I will praise Crace's simple yet absorbing prose and vivid... Read more
Published on July 12, 2010 by R Atherton
4.0 out of 5 stars Everybody died at night in this America turned upside down
In the fishing village along the riverbank-- a place called Ferrytown that likes to charge exorbitant fees to any stranger traveling through-- Margaret is showing definite signs of... Read more
Published on April 4, 2010 by Cathy G. Cole
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Topic From this Discussion
Before you read this book, buy Useless America
The book 'Useless America' does not exist. 'This Used To Be America' was a working title for the book 'The Pesthouse', and due to some weird translation, 'This Used To Be America' became 'Useless America'. Crace, himself, said that he did not write the book and he is pretty positive that a word... Read More
Feb 14, 2007 by A. D. Gosling |  See all 4 posts
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