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The Road Homeby Rose Tremain
2008 Orange Prize for Fiction
Synopses & Reviews
In the wake of factory closings and his beloved wife's death, Lev is on his way from Eastern Europe to London, seeking work to support his mother and his little daughter. After a spell of homelessness, he finds a job in the kitchen of a posh restaurant, and a room in the house of an appealing Irishman who has also lost his family. Never mind that Lev must sleep in a bunk bed surrounded by plastic toys — he has found a friend and shelter. However constricted his life in England remains he compensates by daydreaming of home, by having an affair with a younger restaurant worker (and dodging the attentions of other women), and by trading gossip and ambitions via cell phone with his hilarious old friend Rudi who, dreaming of the wealthy West, lives largely for his battered Chevrolet.
Homesickness dogs Lev, not only for nostalgic reasons, but because he doesn't belong, body or soul, to his new country — but can he really go home again? Rose Tremain's prodigious talents as a prose writer are on full display in The Road Home, but her novel never loses sight of what is truly important in the lives we lead.
"Tremain (Restoration) turns in a low-key but emotionally potent look at the melancholia of migration for her 14th book. Olev, a 42-year-old widower from an unnamed former east bloc republic, is taking a bus to London, where he imagines every man resembles Alec Guinness and hard work will be rewarded by wealth. He has left behind a sad young daughter, a stubborn mother and the newly shuttered sawmill where he had worked for years. His landing is harsh: the British are unpleasant, immigrants are unwelcome, and he's often overwhelmed by homesickness. But Lev personifies Tremain's remarkable ability to craft characters whose essential goodness shines through tough, drab circumstances. Among them are Lydia, the fellow expatriate; Christy, Lev's alcoholic Irish landlord who misses his own daughter; and even the cruelly demanding Gregory, chef-proprietor of the posh restaurant where Lev first finds work. A contrived but still satisfying ending marks this adroit migr's look at London." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The pleasure, the wit and the joy in humanity that Tremain brings to every page do what literature, at its best, should do: connect us, as E.M. Forster famously exhorted." Los Angeles Times
"Tremain transforms this episodic road story into a gem of a novel." Seattle Times
"[A] moving, utterly absorbing portrait of deracination, hope, loss, longing and fortitude." San Francisco Chronicle
"[S]chmaltz aside, this British novel can remind any American reader of the loneliness and hope of the immigrant experience." Chicago Sun-Times
"It's not just the clarity of her prose, the liveliness of her plots, the precision of her settings, or the depth of her characters. I love Tremain because she is so compassionate." Philadelphia Inquirer
About the Author
Rose Tremain lives in Norfolk and London with the biographer Richard Holmes.
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