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The People's Act of Love by James Meek
The People's Act of Love is set in Yazyk, a remote Siberian village, in 1919. It is a place that contains a marooned legion of Czechoslovak troops and a group of skoptsy, men who've castrated themselves in an attempt to make themselves closer to God. The Czechoslovakians are led by a madman, and his troops, with their own atrocities haunting them, just want to go home. Led by the decent Lieutenant Mutz, they hatch a mutinous plot to remove their commander. Mutz, however, has fallen in love with Anna Petrovna, discarded wife of the leader of the skoptsky. A precarious balance in the town is upset when an escaped prisoner arrives. Samarin claims to be a political prisoner and revolutionary, but he really wants to destroy everything that doesn't lead to paradise. With the Red Army just kilometers away, Samarin's malevolence lights the spark that consumes them all. James Meek's novel has received positive reviews with The Scotsman saying, "There is marvellous story-telling here, a treasure-house of stories. Meek shows a splendid confidence in the way in which he changes tack, embarks on a new story, with new characters, never doubting his ability to command the reader's attention; and then an equally remarkable skill as, gradually, he weaves his stories together until at last the figure in the carpet is revealed, clear and coherent."