The Pesthouse by Jim Crace

Holley's Review, #1 of 12
The Pesthouse by Jim Crace
2007 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction

I’m not quite sure where my fascination with post-apocalyptic stories has come from. I loved Robert O’Brien’s Z is for Zachariah, John Hersey’s Hiroshima, Dean Koontz’s The Taking, and the 28 Days Later flick (didn’t bother with the sequel…too much bad press) and, more recently, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Stories I haven’t gotten to yet include: Nevil Shute’s On the Beach, Pat Frank’s Alas, Babylon, and H.G. Wells’ The Last War. I’m certain there are many more out there, but these few are the only ones to grab my attention thus far.

I had not read any pre-publication buzz about Jim Crace’s new book, The Pesthouse, nor had it been recommended to me. I stumbled across it at work one day because it had an attractive cover and, upon reading the inside cover material, I discovered that it was a post-apocalyptic story AND the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award winner for Fiction. Double trouble for the Book Award Reading Challenge!

The things you do not know at the beginning of the story include: what apocalyptic event triggered the decline of this fictional USA? Why has Margaret sickened? Exactly what happened in the village that night? Toward what is everyone fleeing? The comparisons to McCarthy’s The Road will be inevitable, but this story is much more hopeful and optimistic even during its more violent scenes. The near-medieval society, the superstitions adopted by the people, the pacifist cults, the Mad Max-like outlaws roaming deserted, torn up highways, all leave you with the burning question, “What happened?” Unfortunately for the inquiring mind, the author never reveals why the country became the way it is. You are bound for disappointment again if you like closure in your stories. Margaret and Franklin’s journey only begins with this book and their journey’s end is somewhere off the written page. I sincerely hope that Crace never reveals his vision for their future so that I can continue to plot the course of it myself.

Happy Reading!



    So, how come authors can destroy the country without explain the hows and the whys?

    I liked The Road so I may add this one to my list. Thanks for the review.


    artistic license? who knows :) I hope you add it to your list and subsequently enjoy it!