Oneof the things I like about visiting the US is the chance to buy books that I just can't get in Europe. OK, there is Amazon, but as book lovers know, you cannot browse and online the store in the the way you can a real book shop. A recent fined was The Pesthouse , Jim Grace. I don't usually 'do' dystopian novels, with the notable exceptions of Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood.
Although the books by these two authors are very different, what they both have in common is writing styles that make you want to keep reading, no matter how crappy life in the book is getting.
In a twist from the normal run of things today, in The Pesthouse America is not where people want to be. In fact, it is the last place on earth that they want to be. There has been a breakdown in society, the climate and soil no longer supporting the population. Exactly what led to this problem we are never told. The constant fear in this new era is an old one, bubonic plague. Whether that came on the back of the meltdown of American society or was the forerunner, we are never told and it doesn't seem particularly relevant. The plague itself is relevant to the two main characters in the novel, Margaret and Franklyn, who find themselves oddly united by the fact that they are both too ill to run away from the other. It remains relevant as they struggle to make their way to the coast, where, it is rumoured, there are ships that will take them to Europe. It remains relevant as an unlikely ally when danger threatens them.
I found myself drawn into the novel and while not being an action-packed thriller (!) it was nonetheless a page-turner. The ending was unexpected, but just right. Good writing, believeable characters, satisfying ending. Can't really ask for much more.
Scores on the door: 9 out of 10