Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Pesthouse a companion to McCarthy's The Road

Books now read in ’07: 31
Title: The Pesthouse
Author: Jim Crace
Genre: Fiction
Date Completed: 4-11
Pages: 309
Something has happened in America. There are suggestions that a plague has swept the country. All we know for certain is that technology has vanished – metal is scorned by some as a tool of evil – along with any suggestion of organized government. Armed bands of men roam the countryside, preying on the weak, who flock east in an effort to flee the country.

Set aside for a moment any thoughts that Jim Crace’s powerful new book, The Pesthouse, is an allegorical work. Certainly, at some level it must be. Focus, instead, on the story. Crace is a powerful storyteller – inventive, imaginative – and this new book is a fitting companion to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. (Interesting, isn’t it that two such books have surfaced in recent months. Is the Bush Administration responsible for driving authors to write of future dystopias?)

Where McCarthy’s book was spare and unsparing and starkly poetic, Crace is lush, hopeful and poetic. In The Road the world has ended. All is grayness and cold and ashes. In The Pesthouse there is fear and ignorance, but kindness and dreams also survive -- perhaps, because the sun still shines; because there is rain and birds and wildlife and people willing to help one another.

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