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The People's Act Of Love

3.73  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,075 Ratings  ·  314 Reviews
In the outer reaches of a country recently torn apart by civil war lives a small Christian sect and its enigmatic leader, Balashov. Anna Petrovna, a beautiful, restless photographer, is raising her young son by herself amid this brutal landscape. Stationed nearby is a company of Czech soldiers, desperate to get home but on the losing side of the recent conflict. Each soldi ...more
Paperback, 391 pages
Published by Canongate Books Ltd (first published November 2003)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Oct 08, 2010 J rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Poor Anna Petrovna, surrounded by megalomaniac and generally delusional men. Ain’t it the truth! THANK YOU, MR MEEK!

That’s not what this book is about.

In Siberia in 1919, a forgotten Czech troop holds the town of Yaszyk. The town is mainly populated by an extreme sect of castrate Christians. It’s about history, revolution, Russia. It’s about ideals, cold and rational, brushing up against natural, warm-blooded reality. And it’s about love. What is love? What are its boundaries? What would you do
Pris robichaud
Jan 04, 2009 Pris robichaud rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

And, The End Justifies The Means?, 17 Jan 2006

"He's not a destroyer; he is destruction, leaving these good people who remain to build a better world on the ruins. What looks like an act of evil to a single person is the people's act of love to its future itself." Samarin pretending to speak of another, but really speaking of himself.
James Meek has written a marvelous story-telling in this novel. At once so well written you would think he was writing in Russia of 1920. This is the time of the Ru
Aug 04, 2009 Cindy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The People's Act of Love is a very strange book with a very tangled and complicated plot. It takes place in a small village in Siberia during the time of the Russian Revolution. One would think that this piece of information would get the reader started fairly well on having a sense of time and place and the sorts of things that might be likely to happen next. But one would be wrong. I started this book and put it down and started it again and put it down again, at least three times. Everyone I ...more
Dec 23, 2010 Jim rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
And what was the point of this? All the glowing reviews, adulatory comments for a book that started quite well and then just meandered away into the Russian wilderness. Frustrating enough for me to write the following on The Fool:
When I was younger, and not a wage earner, I used to dream about having my own library instead of having to rely on the public ones. Never again would I have to search or reserve the latest works of my favourite authors, because I'd simply buy them and read when I was i
Mar 05, 2010 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I was a bit disappointed after finishing The People's Act of Love. Don't get me wrong, this is certainly a book worth reading. Meek knows his Russian Lit. In particular - Dostoevsky. Structurally the novel hurtles along (like all great Dostoevsky novels) from one revelation to another, with occasional stock gathering, as a character stops to offer up some existential musing or another. All the characters are Dostoevsky weird, and some of the dramatic set pieces are first rate. (My favorite momen ...more
Jun 06, 2008 Milan/zzz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
WOW what a strange novel this is! This beautiful piece of historical fiction written in the best spirit of Russian classics is set in the coldest, isolated part of Siberia during the Russian Revolution. Place where common rules can’t be applied or can easily be neglected and therefore perfect (whatever that means) place to test your humane values and scruples.

I’ve read somewhere one comment about the books as if ”Anna Karenina meets Silence of the Lambs” and that’s pretty much true with the diff
Aug 21, 2007 Hailly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an amazing book once you got into it. This book is totally worth it but the begining chapters are very confusing/boring. However, becuase of this when everything came together it made it that much more exciting.

This book is about several different characters who throughout the book realize who they are, who they love and the meaning of life. This book sounds a little mushy but its not. The author is very real which makes the book easy to relate to.

I would suggest that everyone read th
Jun 12, 2008 Fran rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Awesome, awesome, awesome. As the jacket describes it, The People's Act of Love is as rich as a classic Russian novel, but packs all that story and philosophy and beauty into under 400 pages. Even as I was hurtling toward the end, I found myself turning to previous chapters to reread passages, both to savor the language and to find clues to the many unfolding mysteries. Read it!
Dec 01, 2008 Kristen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: serious lit fans
Recommended to Kristen by: Cindy
Shelves: high-brow
This was an interesting book. I enjoyed it, but couldn't say I loved it. The characters were well-developed and mostly likeable. The main character of Samarin was an exception. I never felt like I understood what motivated him - a fairly ordinary childhood didn't seem like the background that a revolutionary would have.

The main theme in this book is as the title suggests - love. Love in all it's various forms; parents for children, children for parents, spouses towards each other, men and women
Dec 30, 2014 Jill rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Here's how I picture the kind of person who'd enjoy this book:
- cranky as hell
- probably has scale model trains in basement
- has a proud collection of hardcover books about 20th century wars published in 1960
- dust jackets thereof ripped from overuse
- condescendingly rolls eyes when you get a minor historical fact wrong in conversation
- hates cocktail parties
- is THAT GUY at cocktail parties
- drinks vodka straight at cocktail parties
- because that's how the Russians did it during the war
- mildl
Mar 28, 2012 Felice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The People's Act Of Love by James Meek is set in a Siberian village and there isn’t even a whiff of feel good anywhere in this book.

It’s the last dark days of the Russian Revolution. The hard times have left their mark all over the place. Among the population of this hellish village of Yazyk are: Anna a passionate, widowed single mother, a group of stranded Czech soldiers with a cocaine addicted Captain, a separatist Christian sect obsessed with purity, a creepy local shaman and--bonus-- the Re
Emily C.
Set in the punishing Siberian landscape, an unlikely cast of characters play out a gruesome, unbelievable but ultimately redeeming story. The players, a Christian sect that believes in self-castration for men and women, a Czech military legion stationed in Russia, and a genius/madman escaped convict/terrorist, seem like the invention of a brilliant creative mind. They are not. They all have a basis in reality--the castrates, the Czechs in Siberia and an unspeakably vile practice for survival in ...more
Nov 20, 2012 Peter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novel is a stunning achievement, one with an epic sweep which still manages to convey the small details of people’s everyday lives. The story is set in a small backwater town in Eastern Siberia in 1919, in the earliest days of the Soviet Union, and involves a Czech regiment still stranded after WWI, a small community of religious fanatics, a lonely woman and her young son, and a dangerous criminal who infiltrates all of their lives. It’s a story of love, suspense and war which asks some ver ...more
Jun 29, 2013 Jenny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a much darker historical novel than I expected. Given that Mr. Meek is a journalist, his writing is surprisingly vibrant and poetic. His respect for the genre of Russian literature (and history) is expressed subtly throughout this somewhat bizarre plot. There are 'big ideas' and philosophical questions but they don't seem tedious or painfully obvious. Questions of right and wrong, good and evil, war, sacrifice, and faith are present but not too forced. These characters have a tough time ...more
Jun 26, 2007 Brendan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1st-editions
Insightful measure of the human soul set in the expansive Russian tundra. Such depth, with such decisive and efficient writing, is a wonder of craft to behold.
Alexios Moore
Mar 07, 2007 Alexios Moore rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone Who Posesses a Human Soul
What you expect from Russian classics but lose in the translation.
Mar 04, 2012 Sooz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this is a fabulous book, and i cannot remember the last novel that instilled such a response within me. you know sometimes i think i am kind of stingy with my stars .... but this is why .... so that when i read something like The People's Act of Love, and i give those five stars it means something.

i saw another member had posted a one sentence review. 'what you expect from Russian novels that gets lost in the translation.' given that i have never read an original Russian as well as it's translat
Feb 25, 2013 Amanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Morally and ethically turbulent, The People's Act of Love is, at its very core, schema shattering with just enough warped justification to threaten logic. For every shock-inducing articulation, there is an equal and opposite observation that dislodges certainty and battles reason.

The novel revolves around a disjointed-yet-inherently-connected group of complex characters coexisting in a ruthless Siberia at the end of The Russian Revolution. And it is about love. Just not the fluffed up, butterfl
Ben Lewis
Jun 23, 2013 Ben Lewis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: epic
Thus far, my favorite novel. A stunningly dramatic telling of outlandish and brutal events in an outlandish and brutal time in history.

The premise, quite simply, is superb. The drama of events unfolding in the wake of the literally revolutionary changes in early 20th century russia, and the unique and powerful story of Czech soldiers stranded on the trans siberian railway, makes for an unforgettable backdrop. I thoroughly recommend familiarising oneself with the history of the period, simply be
May 07, 2013 Bjorn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: uk
OK, this was indeed a fantastic book. Meek's intentions of writing a Great Russian Novel, as mentioned by Stewart above, certainly shine through - it has scope, multiple-character plot, ethical quandaries and satire that wouldn't be unworthy of ol' Fyodor D himself - while still modern (and postmodern) enough to make it a novel for today's age.

But the similarities I keep finding aren't as much to writers as to movies; Col mentioned Ravenous, the praising of which I would like to join, but I also
Laura Mathieson
Jan 26, 2008 Laura Mathieson rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in Russian history
When I first flicked through this book I noticed the setting – Siberia, the plot – political intrigue, and the unpronounceable names, and my heart sank. Not a book I would ever have willingly chosen!
I started it, put it down, gritted my teeth and picked it up again, and slowly became engrossed in the story. Once all the main characters were in one place, Yazyk, the story started to make more sense. Did I like it? I’m still not sure! I admired the intelligence, the multi layers of story that embr
Aug 08, 2008 Jeff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: russian lit and history majors
Recommended to Jeff by: lee, blevins
like the tolstoy novels that inspired it, _the people's act of love_ unabashedly tackles philosophical "grand issues" -- the relationship between ideologies and those who manifest/embody them; the nature of love, duty, morality and hardship; and the frequent discord between outward and internal identity -- often with a great deal of success.

in a turbulent post-revolution siberia, the town of yazyk is populated by militant czech occupiers and an extremist christian cult -- groups in seeming polar
Bookmarks Magazine

That most critics compared this intellectual epic novel to those by the Russian Greats__Tolstoy and Dostoevsky__attests to its power. A study of fanaticism and faith, People's Act draws a broad canvas of human history in its convincing depictions of battle, prison life, politics, romance, and revolution. Meek, an English novelist and Moscow correspondent, also creates pitch-perfect dialogue, deep characterizations, and affecting imagery. In the vein of Russian novels, much philosophizing takes p

Dec 06, 2008 Ryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those in need of a little succour
Don't be turned off by the seemingly mawkish title. This is not a ready-for-telemovie book, but a dark historical novel about the Russian civil war, a castration cult and cannibalism. Ordinarily, I'm suspicious of 'historical' fiction as it is often an genre in which the author tries to play out some thought experiment with no regard for the period. In contrast, Meek has proved to be very sensitive the era. Meek's sensitivity and humanity as a writer runs so deep that he is able to write about a ...more
Margaret Ross
Jul 23, 2008 Margaret Ross rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought the first chapter of this book was perfect. It was its own small, beautiful work of art within a larger story.

The story was, at times, too far out for me. Then again, I've read enough non-fiction to know that there are few things "too far out" when it comes to the extremes of human behavior. People do amazing things in pursuit of faith and survival. People also become very cruel animals under circumstances that need not be extreme at all.

I left the book most appreciative of the display
Feb 25, 2014 Yvonne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely remarkable. Original, mesmerizing and strange. The Russian revolution, Siberia, Reds, Whites, taiga, Tungus, the White Garden, Czech soldiers, castrates, hussars, communism, sex, horses, whirling dervishes, murder, cannabilism, lunacy, love, lust, faith, cruelty, trains and humour.
It's quite a read and the characters are deep and individual. This book isn't for everyone, I think if you don't have a knowledge of, or an interest in, the strangeness that is Russia and its history this mi
Karen Whittaker
I am a great fan of Russian literature – Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Turgenev et al and was looking forward to reading a modern take on great Russian philosophical literature, so decided to read this book as recommended by a review of book clubs in The Telegraph and from reading some of the amazing reviews written about this novel (Irvine Welsh, Philip Pullman, Stephen King. Washington Post…).
Most of the time I had to keep checking that I was reading the same novel as the one that had been reviewed.
Edmund Zagorin
Dec 16, 2014 Edmund Zagorin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
SPOILER ALERTS. (I copied this review from a letter I wrote to a friend). I just read it. It was amazing. So many thoughts. Made me go back and read Lermontov. Have you read? The character of Samarin is like Lermontov's Pechorin, only Samarin actually goes through some hardship whereas Pechorin is a dapper psycho of Tsarist society rank. Of course, there is a hundred year difference in timeplaces, and you have the Caucasus versus Siberia. It nearly makes me want to go there! Meek's dizzying arc ...more
story of the extremes (and they're really extreme) that people go to in the name of religion, political power, and love. Set in Russia at the end of the Communist Revolution, it's Dostoevsky if Dostoevsky had wanted to sell a lot more books. I had a hard time getting into it, but when the three main characters are joined in one thread, the story gets very interesting
Heather Harold
Feb 22, 2014 Heather Harold rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in Siberia during the Revolution and Communist take-over, the novel is told from the POV of several characters more or less representing various "types" of people living in Siberia during this time. Ethnic "western" Russians, Czech "occupiers," labor camp prisoners (although this is complicated) and, to a lesser extent, native aboriginals.

The thread running through the book is love and what its extremes can drive people to do (both heroic and horrific). As part of that theme, it's also about
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“And you thought: they're used to it. But that was how those who suffered less always thought about those who suffered more, that they were used to it, that they no longer felt it as you did. Nobody ever got used to it. All they learned to do was to stop letting it show.” 5 likes
“Anna woke with the wonderful feeling bad sleepers have when they know they have slept well. As if they have stolen something and got away with it. At these times the memories of what led up to such deep sleep keep their distance for a few seconds and those few seconds are perhaps the only time the world can ever be said to show mercy.” 4 likes
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