Janette Fleming's Reviews > The People's Act of Love

The People's Act of Love by James Meek
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May 27, 11

bookshelves: audio-books, favorites
Read from May 20 to 27, 2011

Difficult to get in to as the first few chapters are very confusing and complex as each chapter is a snippet of a different persons life.

Stick with it....please!

It is only when these individual stories start to interconnect, as
Cindy said 'the confusion becomes more interesting than confusing.'

Set in Russia 1919 in the village of Yazyk, a remote outpost in the Siberian wilderness during the Russian Revolution. The village is populated by a stranded regiment of Czech soldiers, a beautiful widow with her son and a very strange religious sect. Into this staggers an escaped convict from a Siberian Gulag camp 'The White Garden 'who warns them he is being followed by another prisoner called The Mohican. Oh and the Bolsheviks are closing in on the town intent on taking revenge on the Czech legion for a massacre of a town.

It is written as if it is of its time, Russia 1919, with idea driven characters (cue lots of existential ponderings) that could have come from the pen of Dostoevsky. I love the sweeping Russian forms of address “Good morning Viktor Timifeyovich, good morning Pelageya Fedotiva” and “Comrade Chairman , Soviet of the Railways workers of Verkhny Luk”...” etc etc

The whole thing, characters, plot, setting is totally deranged but what magnificent storytelling! A epic story of Russia evocatively written, the narrative in dispersed with haunting letters, monologues and breathtaking, almost cinematic, descriptions of the vicious Siberian landscape where even the trees shudder with the cold

The historical detail is exquisite such as the fate of the abandoned Czech regiments in Russia and the life and death of the Hussars and their beloved horses.

"At the time they left Prague in 1914 there had been 171 of them. ... In February 1917, when the Russians had their first revolution, and nobody knew who was in charge, there wasn't much bread to be had. The younger Cerny died of the fever. ... Dragoun and Najman froze to death on the second night. ... After their company shot some peasants, Buchta and Lanik said their comrades were dirty reactionary sons of bitches, and went over to the Bolsheviks. Biskup and Pokorny, who kept complaining that they weren't being paid, went off to rob a bank in Odessa. ... In a Siberian rail halt in autumn, five years later, mutiny hung from the branches, too ripe even to need to pick. ... A hundred men with 945 toes between them, the balance lost to frostbite, and 980 fingers."

Until I read this book I never knew that the Tungas, the indigenous people of Siberia, even existed never mind that they rode domesticated reindeer and had Shamans.

At the books heart is basically human nature stripped bare...love, lust, cruelty, fanaticism, guilt and sacrifice

It is a while since I became so deeply involved in a book and its characters and the highest praise I can give it is to say I will read it again, something I hardly ever do......
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Janette Fleming “Did you hear the story about the monk who arrived in a mall town in Poland one time, rang the bell in the marketplace, gathered all citizens and told them that he had come to warn them of a terrible plague which would soon afflict them? Somebody asked him who was carrying the plague. The monk said: I am”


message 2: by Janette (last edited May 27, 2011 05:02PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Janette Fleming "Mutz began walking back to Yazyk, stupefied by the variety of menace and idiotism he had met since yesterday. In one quiet attic of his mind a man was trying to think while all around him neighbours were jumping out of windows, setting themselves on fire and garrotting each other...."

Loving this


message 3: by Paul (new)

Paul very good review which inspired me to read this book


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