Perhaps you need to have read more classic Russian novels than I have (sum total: 0) to appreciate James Meek’s international bestselling, Man Booker Prize longlisted novel. I just found it a bit of a slog, in spite of the Czechs-in-Siberia, cannibalism and castration, and all the glowing reviews by writers I enjoy.
Publisher’s page: The People’s Act of Love – James Meek
War reporter and would-be blockbuster novelist Adam Kellas falls in love with fellow journalist Astrid as they embed themselves in the war in Afghanistan and the build up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Back home, Astrid having chosen to stay on in Afghanistan, he receives an email from Astrid and it turns out the they have both been fighting battles of their own back on home soil – Adam with his jealousy of his best friend Pat’s success as a writer and in his married life with Adam’s first love, Sophie. Cool, calm, composed, controlled Astrid’s war takes longer to appear.
Some lovely phrases about the effect travel has on a person. My favourite:
“And the traveller never comes back. He becomes another man, who belongs a little to the place he travels to. He belongs more to that place every day he stays there. And that’s the very part, the belonging, that I never find out how to pass to the people at home. Maybe because I can’t get it right. Maybe because they don’t want to know.”
Two good reviews from February 2008:
Publisher page: We Are Now Beginning Our Descent – James Meek
(Got to say though that my enjoyment was marred by pencil marks a previous borrower had made in the book. Why use pencil if you’re not going to rub it out? It’s on virtually every other page in the Afghanistan section.)