Published in 2007, it is the story of Lev, who leaves his Eastern European village for London, a journey by bus over several days. Sitting next to him is Lydia who has a job to go to, speaks English well and is confident of her success in her new country. Lev is less well-prepared. Leaving his daughter in the care of his mother, and still grieving for his late wife, he has no job and only a hundred or so pounds to last him until he finds his feet.
The cost of living is a shock – Lev spends much of his money on a night in a B&B, but his landlady helps him with advice and slowly he begins to build a life for himself, making connections at the restaurant where he washes dishes, and with Christy, the Irish plumber who rents him a room, still decorated for the daughter he never sees.
Both Lev and Christy miss their families, though both are rescued by work and build new relationships. The Road Home is a perceptive look at the immigrant experience, the false hopes and the reality checks and cultural differences that make things difficult. But it is also a story of hope and the triumph of the human spirit.
What really keeps you reading is the characters. I don’t know how an author gets into the heads of such a range of people, but Rose Tremain certainly seems to have the knack – remember Restoration and last year’s The Gustav Sonata. Then there’s the writing which is rich and evocative without seeming over-written. I don't know why I left this book sitting on the bookcase for so long, for Tremain is a brilliant novelist.
Posted by JAM
Catalogue link: The Road Home