An extraordinary novel that ratifies Martin Amiss standing as a force unto himself, as The Washington Post has attested: There is, quite simply, no one else like him.
House of Meetings is a love story, gothic in timbre and triangular in shape. In 1946, two brothers and a Jewish girl fall into alignment in pogrom-poised Moscow. The fraternal conflict then marinates in Norlag, a slave-labor camp above the Arctic Circle, where a tryst in the coveted House of Meetings will haunt all three lovers long after the brothers are released. And for the narrator, the sole survivor, the reverberations continue into the new century.
Harrowing, endlessly surprising, epic in breadth yet intensely intimate, House of Meetings reveals once again that Amis is a stone-solid genius . . . a dazzling star of wit and insight (The Wall Street Journal).
Despite the book jacket's promise of a love story, it becomes clear early on that this is not going to be a love story in any traditional sense; even the narrator qualifies his statement by saying that it's a story of Russian love, indicating that we shouldn't expect anything remotely soppy and loving within these pages. In essence The House of Meetings is an extension, in novel form, of Amis's 2002 nonfiction work Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million, a reference to Stalin and the estimated 20 million who died under the Bolshevik regime between 1917 and 1933. (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
The Boston Globe - Saul Austerlitz
Amis has never lost his remarkable gift for description, or his crisp command of dialogue, but the enormity of the camps overwhelms even him.
The Washington Post - Thomas Mallon House of Meetings, his new novel about life during and after the gulag, is a slender book, on the same scale as the nonfictional Koba, and quite imperfect as a novel. But it is vivid and even scarifying, more than some mere noble acknowledgment of mass suffering, a suffering that Western intellectuals so often excused.
The Times (London) - Robert MacFarlane House of Meetings is unmistakably Amis’s best novel since London Fields (1989). He has finally abandoned his manic verbal excesses, which reached their pitch of rabidity in Yellow Dog (2003). He has written a slender, moving novel, streaked with dark comedy
The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani
After his embarrassing 2003 novel, Yellow Dog — a book that read like a parody of a Martin Amis novel, featuring gratuitous wordplay and a willfully perverse fascination with the seamy side of modern life — the author has produced what is arguably his most powerful book yet.
Disappointing...Amis's trademark riffs are all too muffled in his obvious research.
A novel that doesn't read like any other, ranking as this renowned British author's best. The most compelling fiction from Amis in more than a decade.
The Observer - Toby Lichtig
Despite the caricatures and the indulgence of ventriloquism, Amis has produced a memorable novel and a memorable protagonist.
Scotland on Sunday - Peter Burnett
What House Of Meetings may prove is that there is another Amis style. If Yellow Dog was more than the self-respecting reader should endure, then here is a more generous novel that still travels in macabre directions, but does so with a conscience. It doesn't herald a new development in Amis's work, but does manage to make his talent for shock count by locating it in an already brutish environment.
The Times (London) - Douglas Kennedy
As a novelist, Amis has never been emotionally user-friendly, and in House of Meetings there is a chilly distance created between the narrator and the horror show he is describing. As such, it’s a bit like being guided through a series of museum exhibitions depicting a vortex of hell. Though fascinating, they lack visceral punch. This reservation aside, the novel has a cumulative power and resonates with many reflections about the course of individual destiny in a profoundly cruel universe.
The Soviet system of forced labor camps known as the Gulag spanned nearly
four decades of Soviet history and affected millions of individuals. GULAG is an
acronym of Glavnoe Upravlenie Lagereian which, depending on the source, translates as "The Main Directorate for Corrective Labor Camps" or "Main
Camp Administration". The earliest camps were
established in 1919, by 1939 about 1.6 million were incarcerated. Over time, the word "Gulag" has come
to signify not only the administration of the concentration camps but also the
system of Soviet slave labor itself, in all its forms including labor
camps, punishment camps, criminal and political camps, women's camps, children's
camps and transit camps.
Prisoners included murderers, thieves and other common
criminals, plus many political and religious dissenters. During World War II
Gulag numbers declined significantly with the mass conscription of prisoners -
penal battalions were sent directly to the front line and thrown into the most...
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