by Jim Crace
Once while I was reading Jared Diamond's Collapse and staying in a resort hotel, my subconscious was apparently seized with the imbalance of the modern world and I had an early morning post-collapse vision; the hotel was in ruins, picked clean, abandoned and overgrown with weeds. Jim Crace's novel takes place in that world, a thousand years after life as we know it has collapsed. Franklin is a tall young man, traveling with his brother to the east, where they hope to sail across the Atlantic to a better life. Along the way, Franklin meets Margaret, who has been left to die (or to heal) after showing signs of the flux, a plague-like disease. Franklin and Margaret end up sharing their journey, through strange hamlets and the rubble of cities, meeting other travelers as well as those who profit by leading travelers astray. Unlike McCarthy's The Road, The Pesthouse is somehow hopeful, believing in the beauty of the American spirit, even after all our works have been reduced to weeds and ruin.