House of Meetings
House of Meetings
By Martin Amis
Knopf, Hardcover, 9781400044559, 256pp.
Publication Date: January 16, 2007
An extraordinary novel that ratifies Martin Amis’s standing as “a force unto himself,” as The Washington Post has attested: “There is, quite simply, no one else like him.”
House of Meetings is a love story, gothic in timbre and triangular in shape. In 1946, two brothers and a Jewish girl fall into alignment in pogrom-poised Moscow. The fraternal conflict then marinates in Norlag, a slave-labor camp above the Arctic Circle, where a tryst in the coveted House of Meetings will haunt all three lovers long after the brothers are released. And for the narrator, the sole survivor, the reverberations continue into the new century.
Harrowing, endlessly surprising, epic in breadth yet intensely intimate, House of Meetings reveals once again that “Amis is a stone-solid genius . . . a dazzling star of wit and insight” (The Wall Street Journal).
"Very fine, very moving and easily Amis' most accessible fiction since The Information."
--Adam Woog, Seattle Times
"Masterfully conceived . . . Its narrator is one of those vibrant monsters of nihilism, a Stalin in miniature, like Philip Roth's Mickey Sabbath or John Lanchester's Tarquin Winot. Here is evil, as creepy as it is unforgettable."
--Dan Cryer, Newsday
"A consistently gripping, concise epic of human atrocity [from] a fearless comic novelist whose career has mined the unholy symbiosis of humor and horror . . . Amis is nothing if not precise in hammering home his universal themes of filial love, jealousy and sacrifice; the physical and mental burden of survival, and the juxtaposition of Eastern resignation to suffering vs. the pampered Westerner's tendency to invent pain . . . [He] has made it his business to shock that monster of history into life."
--Connie Ogle, The Miami Herald
"Vivid and scarifying . . . [House of Meetings] gnaws at one's memory."
--Thomas Mallon, The Washington Post Book World
“In its material—the camps, the misery, the engulfing sense of sin, the positing of Russia not as a country but as an emblem of human fate—House of Meetings reminds us of Dostoyevsky . . . A whole dome of meanings, a specific emotional world—hunger, desire, disgust, rottenness—rises around us.”
—Joan Acocella, The New Yorker
“Arguably his most powerful book yet . . . House of Meetings is a powerful, unrelenting and deeply affecting performance: a bullet train of a novel that barrels deep into the heart of darkness that was the Soviet gulag and takes the reader along on an unnerving journey into one of history’s most harrowing chapters . . . It is a story about fraternal love and resentment, but more important, it is a story about the consequences of survival, and about the connection between public and private betrayals and the human costs of a totalitarian state’s policies of internment.”
—Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
"Amis has said that he's never been to Russia, but you'd never know that by reading House of Meetings, which stares into that country's soul deeply enough to convince anyone who's ever read its novels, at least . . . The grim story builds with a Dostoyevskian sense of doom and a Nabokovian dark wit, [about] a man who's done terrible things and is able to look at them philosophically--a perfect character for a fearless writer like Amis." --Keir Graff, Booklist, starred review
"Inside the provocative, philosophical, acerbic Amis, there has long seemed to be a Russian novelist straining to break out. Here, then, is Amis's contemporary version of a classic Russian novel. [House of Meetings] sustains the narrative momentum of a mystery [and] confirms Amis's mastery of tone and the ambiguities of character . . . A novel that doesn't read like any other, ranking as this renowned British author's best. " --Kirkus, starred review
Acclaim from Britain:
“A slender, moving novel, streaked with dark comedy, [and] unmistakably Amis’s best novel since London Fields.”
—Robert Macfarlane, The Sunday Times
“House of Meetings is a singular, unimpeachable triumph, as powerful as J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace . . . [It is] a novel that not so much makes the spine tingle as the heart race at its passion and richness.”
“[A] compact tour de force . . . House of Meetings is more than a love story; it is about envy, ethics, chaos, resistance, violence, solipsism and confession . . . Amis has produced a memorable novel and a memorable protagonist.”
—Toby Lichtig, The Observer
“Magnificent . . . Amis has absorbed the horror of history and the agony of Russia in a wise, gut-wrenching story that sighs and breathes with an eloquently outraged sorrow . . . The tone is pitch-perfect; regretful, bitter, edgy, brilliantly shaped by laconic asides, humour as black as coal . . . It is a human story [in which] history and life do battle, [and] Amis directs this book with equal measures of intensity and inspiration.” —Eileen Battersby, The Irish Times
“[House of Meetings] has a cumulative power and resonates with many reflections about the course of individual destiny in a profoundly cruel universe . . . about the nature of memory and personal responsibility, and the way we are all enslaved by life’s infinite moral complexities.”
—Douglas Kennedy, The Times
“A slight novel in size only, House of Meetings provides an impressively full and frightening look into Stalin’s labour camps . . . Painful, trenchant, and elegantly written . . . Serious in the best sense, its subject matter pleasingly unpredictable . . . I read it as slowly as I could [and] savoured every page.”
—Lionel Shriver, The Daily Telegraph
Praise for Martin Amis:
“Amis [is] one of the very few living masters of the dying art of satire. . . . As ever, he is brilliant on the patch of London turf he has made his own–he could probably write a thousand-page novel and never be boring. . . . [W]hat really sets Amis apart is his ability to find humour in the darkest of places.”
—The Gazette (Montreal)
“Amis can throw words around like nobody else.”
“Pick up anything by British writer Martin Amis and you know you’re in for a twisted romp that could take you anywhere and usually to places your mom warned you about. . . . [He is] as satirical as Swift.”
—The Hamilton Spectator