Thursday, May 6, 2010
The People's Act of Love - James Meek
In 1919 Siberia, in the outer reaches of a country recently torn apart by civil war, lives a small Christian sect and its enigmatic leader, Balashov. Stationed in their midst is a company of Czech soldiers, on the losing side of the recent conflict and desperate to get home. Into this isolated community trudges Samarin, an escapee from Russia's northernmost prison. His arrival intrigues many of the locals, including Anna Petrovna, a beautiful young war widow, but when the local shaman is found dead, suspicion and terror engulf the little town..."The People's Act of Love" is an epic drama of desire and sacrifice, a grand table for modern times.
This book is extremely complex and very slow moving - so if you want a book to jump right into, this is not the book for you. The novel begins by devoting an entire chapter to each important character, which sets up the entire story, although you don't see it at first. These chapters are surrounded by other chapters moving the plot - often parts that you can not understand as the character has not been set up for you yet. This can be very confusing, but the mystery is enticing enough, although barely, to wade through the next few chapters. Once the story gets rolling, however, the plot moves extremely fast and becomes hard to follow because of the swiftness of events.
This was a well-written, but very dense book, and I feel like the full point of the book went over my head. Only after reading other reviews did I understand that the purpose of this book was to expose all the different types of beliefs people have in regards to love and how they display them. It is an interesting concept, but I am not sure the author executed this meaning the best way - it got caught up so much in a kind of murder mystery that the entire purpose to this story became covered up. The reader gets lost in the many characters ( there are FIVE main characters) and the action is all over the place - the first half of the novel doesn't occur entirely chronologically. There is just so much to process that its very difficult to understand in one read.
Strange, and interesting. Well written, but a little too confusing and disturbing for what I like.
Definitely for the heavy reader. People either love or hate this novel - read it if you like philosophy and slow-moving text. I would also recommend this to someone who doesn't mind rereading a novel to fully understand the meaning and who does not mind graphic scenes and shocking actions.