House of Meetings

Publisher: Vintage Canada
A haunting new novel that ratifies Martin Amis’s standing as “a force unto himself,” as the Washington Post has attested: “There is simply no one else like him.”

In the slave labour camps of the Soviet Union, conjugal visits were a common occurrence. Valiant women would travel vast distances, over weeks and months, in the hope of spending just one night with their lovers in the so-called House of Meetings. Unsurprisingly, the results of these visits were almost invariably tragic.

Martin Amis’s new novel, The House of Meetings, is about one such visit; it is a love story, gothic in timbre and triangular in shape. Two brothers fall in love with the same woman, a nineteen-year-old Jewish girl, in 1946 Moscow, a city poised for pogrom in the gap between war and the death of Stalin. The brothers are arrested, and their fraternal conflict then marinates over the course of a decade in a slave labour camp above the Arctic Circle. The destinies of all three lovers remain unresolved until 1982; but for the sole survivor, the reverberations continue into the next century.

A short novel of great depth and richness, The House of Meetings finds Martin Amis at the height of his powers, in new and remarkably fertile fictional territory.

From the Hardcover edition.



The Yenisei, September 1, 2004

My little brother came to camp in 1948 (I was already there), at the height of the war between the brutes and the bitches . . .

Now that wouldn't be a bad opening sentence for the narrative proper, and I am impatient to write it. But not yet. "Not...
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"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 . . . [Amis] has produced what is arguably his most powerful book yet."
--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.”
The Economist

“[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.”
NOW (Toronto)

“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

From the Hardcover edition.