House of Meetings
Martin Amis is the most stylish English writer around today, with an astonishing command of grammar and a vocabulary that the average dictionary would envy. House of Meetings waters down the typical Amis style in deference to his subject matter, life in the Russian gulags. The story is about a love triangle, but a 'scalene' one, which is to say that two men love one woman, but she favours one completely. The two men are brothers, and (as always?) it's the less-loved one who narrates the book. This narration is the reason for the change in prose style Ã¢Â€Â“ it seems Martin Amis is trying to get into the head of a character less intelligent than he obviously is, in a situation more extreme than he'll ever face. This works well when Amis sneaks wit in by making it seem inadvertent, but the book sometimes wallows in gruesome detail about gulag life. Amis has already written about this in his non-fiction book 'Koba the Dread' which suggests that he may have had to get this book out of his system. For all that it's a good read, if not quite up to the high standard expected of this author. [Keir Hind]
House of Meetings' is published by Jonathan Cape. Out Now. Cover Price Ã‚Â£15.99.