I was lucky enough to receive an ARC (Advance Reading Copy) of James Meek’s new book "We Are Now Beginning Our Descent", scheduled to be released in March 2008. I was excited to read this book, which appeared to be a post 9-11 take on the world. This novel follows a journalist, Adam Kellas, as he is sent to Afghanistan by his newspaper employer to cover the war. Along the way he is joined by (among others) Astrid, an American reporter, whom Adam falls in love with. He returns home to London after his assignment is complete, writes a novel written only in an attempt to rake in the cash, and manages to alienate both his friends and his colleagues.
The thing that stood out to me the most about this book was that I didn’t particularly like the main characters, Adam and Astrid. They both came equipped with very human flaws, making them difficult to get close to. Adam seemed selfish and often whiny, his temper flaring up several times to disastrous results. Astrid seemed flighty and elusive, unable to commit to anyone and disappearing at the first sign of trouble. However I believe that this was one of the themes that Meek was attempting to convey: two societal misfits meet, manage to fall in love with each other, and form a relationship that uniquely suits their needs.
Something else that I believe Meek is trying to get across with this book is the reality of war. In the beginning of the book he places the reader in Afghanistan with Adam and Astrid, where we can witness what things are like there. He shows us the futility of war, he shows us innocent people dealing with the aftermath of a war that they did not create. I especially enjoyed this part of the book and I would have liked for even more of the book to be set in Afghanistan. Meek’s words here were powerful and compelling.
I did enjoy reading this book. James Meek is a very skilled author and he draws his readers into his novel with his carefully chosen words. Would I recommend it to someone else? I would; the compelling parts make it worth the read.
I give it 3 stars out of 5.