Martin Amis's new novella is both pertinent and provocative, and sure to be a bestseller.
There were conjugal visits in the slave camps of the USSR. Valiant women would travel continental distances, over weeks and months, in the hope of spending a night, with their particular enemy of the people, in the House of Meetings. The consequences of these liaisons were almost invariably tragic.
HOUSE OF MEETINGS is about one such liaison. It is a triangular romance: two brothers fall in love with the same girl, a nineteen-year-old Jewess, in Moscow, which is poised for pogrom in the gap between the war and the death of Stalin. Both brothers are arrested, and their rivalry slowly complicates itself over a decade in the slave camp above the Arctic Circle.
As one brother, finally, writes to the other, 'You know what happened to us? It wasn't just a compendium of very bad experiences. That was general and standard-issue. That was off the rack. What I'm referring to is the destiny that is made to measure. Something was designed inside us, blending with what was already there. For each of us, in different ways and settings, the worst of all possible outcomes.'
A short novel of great depth and richness, HOUSE OF MEETINGS finds Martin Amis at the height of his powers, in new and remarkably fertile fictional territory.
“Everything is presented with Amis's customary élan and intelligence”
M John Harrison, Guardian
“It is difficult not to be impressed by this compact tour de force...Amis has produced a memorable novel and a memorable protagonist”
Toby Lichtig, Observer
“Undeniably, distinctively identifiable, vintage Martin”
Tim Martin, Independent on Sunday
“Unmistakably Amis's best novel since London Fields ... a slender, moving novel, streaked with dark comedy”
Robert MacFarlane, Sunday Times
“The novel has a cumulative power and resonates with many reflections about the course of individual destiny in a profoundly cruel universe”
Douglas Kennedy, The Times
“[T]errific... Painful, trenchant, and elegantly written, House of Meetings every bit as affecting and rich with emotional content as Yellow Dog was inconsequential and empty”
Lionel Shriver, Telegraph
“An ambitious feat...the result is brilliant”
Catherine Merridale, Independent
“This novella is the best thing Martin Amis has done in fiction for years: very complex, very forceful, startling in the amount of ground it covers, and densely and intelligently put together”
Sam Leith, Literary Review
“I read it as slowly as I could. I savoured every page, like sucking the mints from my hotel's reception down to shards. I tried to keep from finishing it, but couldn't help myself, and cursed when the book was done”
“This is Amis writing at the pitch he has reached in Money...remarkable”
Bharat Tando, TLS
“A compelling work of fiction in which learning and imagination are beautifully counterpoised”
Elizabeth Merritt, New Statesman
“An expert chronicle of the miseries of Soviet everyday life, both in and out of the camps. Readers won't be disappointed with the description of the gulag, which feels as accurate as if Amis had done 10 years himself. The characters and cruelties of the camps exist in miniature, along with the pointlessness and boredom of prison life, which Amis cobbles together beautifully”
Peter Burnett, Scotland on Sunday
“House of Meetings is the best thing Amis has done in fiction for 20 years; indeed in as much as it is his first truly adult novel, the best he has written... Amis evokes the camps with compelling power... Twenty-five years ago Martin Amis seemed the great hope of the English novel. The hope withered. With House of Meetings, it flickers into life again”
Allan Massie, Scotsman