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The People's Act of Love

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  2,682 ratings  ·  375 reviews
Set in a time of great social upheaval, warfare, and terrorism, and against a stark, lawless Siberia at the end of the Russian Revolution, The People’s Act of Love portrays the fragile coexistence of a beautiful, independent mother raising her son alone, a megalomaniac Czech captain and his restless regiment, and a mystical separatist Christian sect. When a mysterious, cha ...more
Paperback, 391 pages
Published December 4th 2006 by Canongate U.S. (first published November 2003)
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Average rating 3.70  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,682 ratings  ·  375 reviews


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J
Aug 26, 2010 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
...more
Jim
Dec 23, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
...more
Gumble's Yard
Apr 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2007
Story set in a Siberian town at the end of the First World War but in the midst of the Red/White struggle for Russia. The inhabitants of the town are mainly members of a castration and whirling sect – who have castrated themselves so as to remove their lustful impulses and use whirling to enter a transcendental state. A woman living in the town – Anna Petrovna – is supposedly the widow of a Hussar but in fact it emerges that her husband Balashov escaped from soldiery and is the leader of the cas ...more
Steve
Mar 05, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Jill
Dec 27, 2014 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
...more
Alexios Moore
Mar 07, 2007 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.
Milan/zzz
Jun 06, 2008 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
...more
Pris robichaud
Jan 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing

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 R
...more
Hailly
Jun 22, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Fran
Jun 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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!
Sherrie
May 16, 2020 added it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
Gave up after 50 pages, dull, boring,confusing, lifes too short for reading stuff you dont like!!
Tonstant Weader
Jun 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
The People’s Act of Love takes place in a remote Siberian village called Yasyk in 1919 when the Bolshevik Revolution is consolidating power, driving out the Tsarist Whites. Yasyk is home to an ascetic cult of castrates, a remnant of a regiment of Czechoslovakian soldiers waiting for orders to go back home, and Anna Petrovna with her son. Anna came to Yasyk after learning her husband, a hussar, died in the war. The leader of the Czechs is a sociopathic madman named Captain Matula whose life was ...more
Felice
Mar 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Laura Mathieson
Jan 26, 2008 rated it liked it
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
...more
Kristen
Nov 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Bjorn
May 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Jeff
May 02, 2008 rated it liked it
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
...more
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
Peter
Nov 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jenny
Jun 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Brendan
Jun 24, 2007 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.
Zulfiya
Feb 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Such an interesting book to review. I decided to expand my reading horizons and get exposed to books outside the usual NPR/Amazon/ Publishers Weekly suggestions. This one was the BBC Bookclub on Radio 4 for the month of February, and I was even surprised to find the audio version in my local library as the book was totally unknown to me.
First off, so much has been said most recently about cultural appropriation and authentic voices. I do not give two cents about preposterous claims that some st
...more
David Butler
Mar 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is an astonishing achievement. Comparisons have been made, with some justice, to Dostoevski and the Russian greats. Meek’s novel certainly has something of the epic sweep of Pasternak, say, but the psychology reminded me also of Hamsun, or Zweig or Joseph Roth. The language is wonderful without being showy: “The convicts and the garrison were starving. You could see the bird of hunger roosting on them, waiting for the hunger to hatch out, a mildewed mother-bird waiting for a brood of white ...more
Johan
Sep 12, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A dense and unyielding narrative filled with long-winded monologues and retellings completely blocked me from enjoying what this book was really about... who knows?
Peter Black
Nov 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well written, original, intriguing but I struggled a bit finishing it as it was quite intense and prose fairly dense
Janette Fleming
May 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 wido
...more
Sooz
Jan 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Amanda
Jan 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Ben Lewis
Jun 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
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

...more
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