Title: The Pesthouse
Publisher: Bond Street Books, Canada
Publication Date: 2007
Book Condition: Very Good
Edition: First Canadian Edition.
White paper-covered boards with white backstrip and black lettering. Hint of edgewear. Text is clean and white, no marks. Unclipped DJ shows minor general wear. "Once the safest, most prosperous place on Earth, the United States is now a lawless, scantly populated wasteland. The machines have stopped. The government has collapsed. Farmlands lie fallow and the soil is contaminated by toxins. Across the country, families have packed up their belongings to travel eastward toward the one hope left: passage on a ship to Europe." (from the jacket). Bookseller Inventory # 71711E
Synopsis: During the years of America?s ascendancy, the great ships brought waves of immigrants to the promised land. In sight of the Statute of Liberty, the huddled masses disembarked in search of the American dream. In the imagined future, the great ships play a different role. In a work of outstanding originality, Jim Crace?s The Pesthouse envisions a future America in ruins and a reversal of history: desperate Americans seeking passage to the promised land of Europe.
Crace?s future United States is a lawless wasteland. The economy collapses, industry ceases, and the remaining populace returns to subsistence farming. The only hope rests with reaching the east coast and obtaining passage by ship to Europe.
Like many Americans, Franklin Lopez and his brother, Jackson, leave their farm to begin the long trek east. Within sight of their goal, Franklin is forced, by an enflamed knee, to stop. While Jackson continues forward, Franklin seeks rest in a seemingly abandoned stone building in a forest. Inside, Jackson discovers Margaret. Margaret is feverish with a deadly illness and is confined to the Pesthouse with little hope of recovery. Franklin should flee. Instead, he is drawn to Margaret and stays by her side while she sweats out the fever. After her recovery, Margaret joins Franklin on the journey east.
This journey is fraught with danger. Rule-of-law no longer exists and the land is plagued by roaming bandits and slave traders. The threat of danger slowly draws Margaret and Franklin closer to each other. A bond of love begins to form. They also draw comfort from joining a group of like-minded pilgrims. The illusion of safety is soon shattered. While resting from a day of travel, the group is taken captive by mounted bandits. Franklin is taken as a slave. On account of her recent illness, Margaret is spared along with an elderly couple and a baby. Margaret must continue on without Franklin.
A bewildered Margaret slowly pushes eastward with the elderly couple and the baby. She is eventually separated from them and must take sole responsibility for the baby. With hope fading, Margaret stumbles upon the refuge of the Ark; a religious community which provides food and shelter in exchange for denouncing all metal technologies. Margaret accepts the laws of the Ark and is allowed to enter with her baby. While safe, Margaret secretly hopes to be reunited with Franklin.
Their paths cross again under tragic circumstances. The Ark is attacked by the same mounted bandits that enslaved Franklin. While the Ark is looted and the community massacred, Margaret and her baby escape. They are reunited with Franklin by chance following a slave uprising in the vicinity of the Ark. Narrowly escaping their pursuers, Franklin, Margaret and the baby continue the journey to the East coast.
Upon finally reaching their destination, the dream is shattered. Margaret discovers there is no room for women with young children on the ships bound to Europe. There is no choice but to turn back. With the end of one dream a new one is born. Inspired by their growing love, Franklin and Margaret decide to return west, with the baby, as a family.
Jim Crace concludes ?going westward, they would go free.?
About the Author: Jim Crace was born in Hertfordshire, England, in 1946. He is the author of eight previous novels, including Continent , Quarantine, and Being Dead. A.S. Byatt has described Crace as the most significant writer in English fiction of the last ten years. A former journalist, Crace is widely recognized as a highly innovative and original writer, springing comparisons with Calvino, Nabokov and Garcia Marquez. His works have received numerous awards, including the Whitbread Award for Best First Novel and the National Book Critics? Circle Fiction Award. His works Quarantine and Being Dead were both shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Crace was awarded the E.M. Forster Award by the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1992 and became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1999. Jim Crace currently lives in Birmingham, England, with his wife and two children.
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