Thursday, 27 November 2008

The Road Home by Rose Tremain

DATE PUBLISHED: 2007 DATE READ: November 2008 NOTES: The story of Lev, an eastern European widower, who comes to England to seek a better life. Right from page one we enter into his world as he sits on the coach as it rolls along towards London. He has no definite plans, few skills and very little knowledge about the reality of life in UK. He has budgeted on existing on £20 a week! I had thought this book might follow one of two tracks. The first would have Lev as a downtrodden immigrant who was continually vilified and victimised as he tried to make an honest living. The second would have been Lev turning to criminality to survive – a bit of theft, a bit of drug-dealing and almost certainly cheating the benefit system. However Rose Tremain avoids both these traps and Lev develops as a likeable and hardworking man who is quick to pick up new ideas. However at the same time he is emotionally troubled – both by the loss of his wife and because he is missing his daughter. The reader begins to see England through his eyes – the litter, the obese population, the strange celebrity culture. Fortunately for Lev, most of the people he comes across are pretty benign – his landlord Christy, GK Ashe (his boss at the restaurant) and even Sophie who is attracted to him until she finds someone else. The writing is just lovely and we are drawn into his world. All the descriptions of restaurant life were superb - and those wonderful menus at Ferndale Retirement Home (chef’s fantastic fish gratin with zero bones and non-crap crumb). When Lev comes up with his own plan for returning home and opening a restaurant we will him to succeed. A lovely feel good book with some dark undertones. (One slight problem I had is the swiftness with which the hero becomes proficient in English. From not being able to ask a simple question on arrival he very soon is speaking and understanding in some very complex situations. He is even tackling Hamlet!)

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