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In the outer reaches of a country recently torn apart by civil war lives a small Christian sect and its enigmatic leader, Balashov. Stationed nearby is a regiment of Czech soldiers, desperate to get home but on the losing side of the recent conflict. Uncertainty prevails.
Into this isolated community trudges Samarin, an escapee from Russia’s northernmost gulag. Immediately apprehended, he is brought before Captain Matula, the regiment’s megalomaniac commander. But the stranger’s arrival has also caught the attention of others. One of them is Anna, the beautiful young war widow. And when the local shaman lies dead, suspicion and terror engulf the little town …
Meek’s novel is a breathtaking contemporary fable staged against one of the most remote landscapes on earth. The remarkable cast of characters, and Meek’s ability to evoke the period, bring to mind the work of the great Russian masters.
The People’s Act of Love is a magnificent piece of storytelling, an unforgettable novel and a deeply satisfying read.
‘A quite extraordinary novel. The language is so fresh and crisp and sparkling. And what a narrative! What a story! There’s a majestic disdain for littleness in this book—for littleness of ambition, for narrowness of sympathy, for pettiness of imaginative scope. I admire it enormously.’
‘This is historical fiction that transcends the genre—as intense as a thriller, imagined on an epic scale.’
‘The literary event of this year.’
‘The book’s most striking feature is the whirling, pungent, sinister atmosphere, which Meek conjures with dazzling assurance. He has created a unique story, distinctively Russian, leaving behind his research on the cutting room floor (yes, one can imagine a film) as well as his reading of the classics. His book is a humdinger; brace yourself for a shock or two, but be sure to read The People’s Act of Love’.
‘James Meek’s magnificent and beautifully written book manages to be both simple and profound, with a faultless balance between cruelty and humanity. Such a truly Russian novel, with its huge horizons, is an exceptional event in English literature.’
‘A big, bold, thrillingly different story told with uncanny authority. Meek understands the horrific power of evil, but he never loses his sense of humour or his affection for those odd moments of grace that keep the human heart alive.’
‘The narrative drive is amazing. So is the cold clarity of Meek’s imagination.’
‘A gripping, disturbing and satisfying novel whose anti-hero speaks in the sophistries that echo our own age of violence…this magnificent work sends shivers down the spine.’
‘So authentic that it feels like it has been translated from the Russian.‘
‘What a sombre and lovely novel this is. Its relevance and beauty lie in its innate gravity, in its refusal to turn away from the apocalyptic nature of the contemporary world. Russian to the core, including a feeling for horses, and snow, and a search for the sublime in misery.’
‘A triumph of research and complex plotting.’
‘A layered, often deeply macabre book that combines the epic sweep of a Russian classic with the psychological precision of the keenest suspense thriller.’
This ingenious, intricate novel, a meditation on grand ideas that is also a suspenseful page turner, avoids that too-easy wonder Russia often inspires in its admirers.’