Tuesday, October 23, 2007


The People's Act of Love, James Meek, Canongate, 2005, 387 pp

Here is one of the stranger books I have read in a while. Set in Russia in the early 20th century, on the edge of Siberia, it is a telling of the Russian Revolution from a perspective not usually employed. The characters are a widow, an escaped political prisoner, a stranded regiment of Czech soldiers left over from WWI and an extremely odd fanatic Christian sect who live communally after practicing castration.

As the story progresses, no one turns out to be what they seemed at first. This book is brutal and violent but laced with humor. The characters, while unique in some details, are mostly archetypes. Even though there are history, politics, love, religion, even a sort of mystery, I could not totally care about any of the characters, except to a degree, Anna, the widow.

I often found it hard to stay awake while reading, yet I do recognize that Meek has created a literary marvel. Ever since reading Ruska, by Edward Rutherford, I have felt that the Russian people are a subspecies of the human race who are hard for a Westerner to understand. No wonder they were once America's archenemy. In The People's Act of Love, James Meek has made yet another attempt to explain these people, but I don't think he understands them either.

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