Monday, 7 August 2017

The Road Home by Rose Tremain

The Turn Up the Heat adult reading challenge asks you to read a book that’s been sitting on the bookcase for years. For me that book turned out to be The Road Home by Rose Tremain.

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

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