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The Pesthouse

3.47 of 5 stars 3.47  ·  rating details  ·  1,817 ratings  ·  275 reviews

Jim Crace is a writer of spectacular originality and a command of language that moves a reader effortlessly into the world of his imagination. In The Pesthouse he imagines an America of the future where a man and a woman trek across a devastated and dangerous landscape, finding strength in each other and an unexpected love.

Once the safest, most prosperous place on earth, t

Published (first published 2007)
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if you have read the road, you don't really need to read this. this was to be jim crace's third strike from me. and i don't dislike jim crace, it's just i wasn't moved by either quarantine or being dead. his style is not embracing - it has the same detached, clinical style as hustvedt, which does not cuddle me, as a reader. i need literary slankets that cover all my parts and transport me (but leaving my arms free to wave about)(did i go on about slankets in another review... i feel like i have. ...more
Jim Crace's second novel, The Gift Of Stones , was set in an unnamed village on the English coast at the twilight of the Neolithic period; his eighth,The Pesthouse, moves far into the future, centuries after an unnamed natural disaster has ravaged most of North America.

The event - which apparently consisted of multiple seismic shifts - has destroyed America's infrastructure and demolished her cities and factories, stripping the continent of its industries and technological advances - and stripp
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [].)

Longtime followers of my creative projects know that in general I don't like publishing bad reviews; that for the most part I see it as a waste of both my time and yours, in that I could be spending that time instead pointing out great artists you may have never heard of. However, since one of the things this website is dedicated to is honest artistic criticism, I also feel it's important to acknowledge books th
Whoa...this book is a trip. I never know what to think when someone says some else's prose is "lyrical" or "hallucinogenic." I only know that this guy is a darn good writer. I'm surprised and not surprised that this book received mixed reviews.

First off, there's that whole "how can a Brit write about America" thing. Well pish-tosh, what Mr. Crace has written isn't just about America. It could have been set in England. Or Germany. Substitute any technologically advanced culture. It works. Eco-di
I thought Jim Crace's Being Dead was a phenomenally weird read read, chock o' block with passages of eerie beauty and shivery meditations on mortality. I don't think I "liked it" per se, but I could not get it out of my head. I had never read anything quite like it at the time, and still haven't. So I was super excited when his next novel, The Pesthouse came out, dealing as it does with material I'm particularly fond of: post-apocalyptic wasteland America (maybe it's because of growing up watchi ...more
Poor Jim Crace. Almost every review I’ve read of this book compares it to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and I’m going to do the same. Can’t help it. They’re both novels set in post-apocalyptic America with two people struggling to get to the coast, and they both came out at about the same time too. And to me, The Road was better. It was just a brilliant novel, one of the best I’ve read in years. The Pesthouse was good, but suffers from the comparison.

Whereas The Road is set within living memory of
This book was a nice addition to my post-apocalypse shelf due to the fact that it was primarily a romance novel. But not the harlequin type, fellas; you won't lose any street cred for reading this one.

The setting is many generations after an apocalyptic event that ruined most of North America. Crace doesn't describe the nature of the apocalypse or when it happened (I was guessing around 500 years prior), but these details don't matter. The entire story could have taken place in potato-famine Ire
I'd heard of Jim Crace, but this was the first book I read of his, and it was a happy surprise. It's a post-apocalyptic love story between two characters on a pilgrimage to supposed safety. Elements of Mad Max minus the heroics and The Grapes of Wrath, but with warmth.
I heard about The Pesthouse on The Diane Rehm Show. I thought the author sounded really interesting and the plot fascinating. But it turns out that the story is about as strong as Diane’s voice. (Oh no he didn’t!) (Oh yes I did!)

Anyway, the story really doesn’t go anywhere and seems to get bogged down with narrative. I honestly can’t find anything remarkable about the book. At the same time, I can’t find anything remarkably terrible about it either. I guess I’d say that reading it was like being
This book reads as if Jim Crace's publishers saw how popular The Road was and said "Hey Jim, we'll pay you a bunch of money to write something just like The Road." And he did. And it was bad.

For now I will assume that it doesn't reflect on Jim Crace's less commissioned works.
Aug 01, 2012 Tina rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: bored people who have nothing else to read
Meh. This novel is slow to start, picks up nicely in the middle, then has a crap ending. Sadly, it had a lot of potential. It was like The Road in slow motion with less suspense, toned-down violence, and wimpier characters. And at least in The Road I genuinely liked the man and the boy. In this novel, Margaret was alright, but Franklin was a complete loser. I'm sorry, nice guys in post-apocalyptic wastelands finish last. You need to be ruthless and quick, not plodding and optimistic. My biggest ...more
The Pesthouse is set in the distant future, though I'm not exactly sure how distant. America is a vast wilderness where Americans are infected with sickness and there is a lack of all modern conveniences, including medicines and electricity. People are emigrating from the interior to the east coast in hopes of catching a ship to take them somewhere better, although no one seems to know much about these places beyond the sea, only that things will be better there.

Margaret is infected with the "fl
Eric Rasmussen
The Pesthouse to me was The Road-lite. Same journey towards the coast, same conflict with roving bands of marauders. However, the landscape is quite a bit more pleasant, there's a love story, and no cannibalism. This does not mean it has less of an impact, or is a weaker story, but the parallels are certainly there.

My issue with this book was with its dystopian elements. I am a big fan of the genre, and in the best examples of these books the setting is just as important as the characters. Why t
Sure, sure, sure, sure, sure sure sure, comparisons to The Road are inevitable and maybe (or maybe not) unfair, but really, what can you say about The Pesthouse, really, other than it just isn't as successful McCarthy's take on postapocalyptia. The approaches are similar, where little is given concerning the cause of the current state of the world, and the focus of the book is two figures crossing a bleak and ruined continent. Crace's book is essentially a love story, though, which I thought was ...more
Andy Smith
Jim Crace is clearly a masterful writer, the prose is beautiful, reminding me in some parts of Cormac McCarthy's dreamy, descriptive style. In fact, The Pesthouse in itself is rather like The Road, only with a bit of colour, optimism and a not-unhappy ending.

I so wanted to like this, if just for Crace's admirable ability as a writer. That said, the long, descriptive paragraphs, full of sentences, skillfully put together, broken by numerous commas, used to say the same thing, again, in another w
This book is very similar to and came out close to the same time as The Road. However, it's not so bleakly dark and has a happy ending rather than a bittersweet one. Rather than a boy and his father pushing a shopping cart to the southern coast, a man and a woman push a barrow to the eastern coast. However, both authors choose to leave America's apocalypse as a mystery of the past.

The Pesthouse is set in a 1000-year-old America which has seen better days. Technology is a thing of the past and li
Meh. Not so great. Not really worth the read, in my opinion. It's the story of a man and a woman during some unexplained post-apocolyptic future America who are journeying to the ocean in hopes of getting on a boat to Europe, which has now become the destination of choice for all hopeless Americans. Take away the artifice of the post-apocalyptic setting and the story is really a rather shallow and uninspired story that has been done time and again by better authors. I felt like the author never ...more
James Murphy
An interesting novel. A very changed America which everyone wants to leave. There's a flow of migration toward the east coast, a desire to sail to Europe brought about by a vanished way of life and ruined infrastructure. The land is troubled by disease resembling the Black Plague and by roving bands of marauders. The atmosphere is a peasant world returned to folklore and superstition. Crace's language is antiquated, precious. The religious fervor depicted reminded me of Puritan England. I like C ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Most critics compared The Pesthouse to Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize?winning The Road (****1/2 Nov/Dec 2006). While The Pesthouse is equally devastating in its postapocalyptic vision, the novel, less spare in its sensory descriptions, contains a mordant wit and rounded female characters. Jim Crace, the author of eight previous novels (including the 2000 National Book Critics Circle Award?winning Being Dead), compellingly chronicles a reverse migration and abandoned moral codes while raising i

Melanie Greene
This guy knows how to make his sentences count. Both Crace novels I've read have been short and strong and well worth the time. He sinks me into his worlds and does an admirable job of playing with his themes & motifs throughout - they're very cohesive objects, these books. I tend to be more enchanted by characters and plots than themes and world building, but when those aspects are as strong as Crace's, I'm happy to shift my allegiances for a while.
To me, a futuristic dystopian novel is an accurate tale of things that could come if the we (whomever that collective we is in said novel) stays on the same course. It is a critique of ourselves, our goverment(s) and our times.
Although this book falls into that definition, I think that this has been the least engaging one that I have read. The story is slow, I couldn't care less about our two main characters, and the writing was soporific. The two main characters exhibit lapses in logic that ar
Catherine Brown
Jim Crace is a must-read author. Pesthouse is my least-favorite of his books (Being Dead and Quarantine are both better) but it's still worth the read. Set sometime in the future, after some terrible plague has wiped out nearly all of society. The landscape is American, but it's more like the American past -- there are no machines or electronics, no big cities, no gasoline... If you're thinking it's like The Road, don't -- the comparison won't hold -- this book is personal, and a love story -- i ...more
I simply like reading Crace because of his descriptiveness. This novel is not as powerful as Being Dead was, but it does tell a story that engages you if you let it. Inevitably there are comparisons with The Road and, yes, the detail of what has happened is missing (how long have people been living this way for the "helpless gentlemen" to have completely lost the use of their arms?); but as a story about two people with good hearts and motivations, I thought he had pulled off a very skillful pie ...more
Well, first allow me to explain a bit why I choose this book. I don't know much about this author, but I was intrigued about the short description that comes with the book. Something about a doomed America, or what is left of a former America and about some emigrants in their quest to emigrate east, towards the old continent supposedly now in a much better shape economically than the Americas...

interesting theme I said to myself, considering now days, the exodus is from east to west, that inclu
The Pesthouse is a post-apocalyptic novel set in an unspecified future America. Technology has regressed to a medieval level and brave pilgrims make the journey east to seek ships for passage to a safer, more prosperous Europe. The novel opens with a landslide releasing noxious gases which kill the sleeping inhabitants of Ferrytown, a small river settlement which is a popular waystation for eastbound travellers. The only survivors are Franklin, a young man headed for the coast whose brother left ...more
This is the first Jim Crace book I had read for a while. It reminded me slightly of ‘Signals of Distress’ – and i can see why some have drawn parallels between this book and Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’. They were both published around the same time, and cover similar territory. The Pest House however has a much less doomy feel to it – despite some fairly horrific scenes. I guess it has a more optimistic outlook. A good story, well told.
Having read quite a few post-apocalyptic stories I can say that there is nothing new here. A land ravaged by something devastating (we never really find out what), communities who mistrust strangers, disease, bandits, religious zeal and a promised land (but no cannibals). Sound familiar to anyone. The plot is like The Road and the scenery is borrowed from The Postman but the prose is all the author's own. That, for me, is what makes it stand out. Jim Crace knows how to turn a phrase. This is onl ...more
Serjeant Wildgoose
This is my third of Jim Crace's novels and sadly the most disappointing by some stretch. The prose is cracking and were that enough it would be a superb read. Sadly the story starts from a barely conceivable premise, trips over itself far too often and leaves far too many of its more promising darker avenues unexplored.

Given the resolve that Americans have shown in their history, it strikes me as implausible that such a nation, shattered by some untold disaster, would allow itself to drift backw
Uthpala Dassanayake
Set in some unspecified future, the world is moving backward and passing an era similar to something 1000 years ago. Not much effort was taken to reconstruct a different environment. People farming and keeping livestock as a living, women’s chastity highly valued and commerce mainly based on goods and service exchange. To complete the picture of reverse flow of history, everybody is emigrating out of America seeking a good life.
Mostly, it is the beautiful writing I loved about this book. The pl
Roy Kesey
My first reading of Crace's work. The book is certainly very competent in the and-then-and-then sense. Nicely shaped, nicely paced. But it's a bit simple at the level of character, and I never felt entirely drawn in, perhaps because its world was less interesting, on the whole, than other similar ones. And then there's the writing, which on the whole shows very little fascination with language; most of the book's points made twice and then clarified, at times in consecutive sentences.

Some favore
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Apocalypse Whenever: The Pesthouse by Jim Crace 5 41 Jun 22, 2012 06:09AM  
Starting the book. 5 27 Dec 09, 2011 10:00AM  
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  • A Gift Upon the Shore
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James "Jim" Crace is an award-winning English writer. His novel Quarantine, won the Whitbread Novel award and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Harvest won the International Impac Dublin Literary Award, James Tait Black Memorial Prize and was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Crace grew up in Forty Hill, an area at the far northern point of Greater London, close to Enfield where Cr
More about Jim Crace...
Harvest Being Dead Quarantine The Devil's Larder The Gift of Stones

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“...crushed between the fears of going forward and the dread of going back.” 12 likes
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