Saturday, 22 November 2008

The Road Home



by Rose Tremain

Rose Tremain has a facility for portraying the dispossessed with neither sentimentality nor cynicism. In The Colour, she wrote of a woman struggling for survival in the harsh landscape of a nineteenth century Australia riddled with gold fever. In The Road Home, we follow the journey of a man seeking his fortune in twenty-first century Britain. Both stories concern outsiders willing to sacrifice everything to succeed and in each tale, the virtues of persistence and hard work are extolled. Like all the best fables, the price of failure is high, and Tremain grounds her characters in a rich and realistic setting. The indignities of poverty and the cruelties of fate are never treated lightly. We see the abyss at our hero's heels.

Widower Lev has left his child in the care of his mother to travel by coach to London in the hope of earning enough money to send some back to them. His East European homeland is changing, progress is coming and with it the end of life in his valley. Already the trees that provided work and fuel in Auror have all been felled. Soon, the developers will build the damn to wash away the houses and jobs and farmland of his youth. Lev carries with him the loss of his beloved Marina and the aspirations of his friend Rudi, whose savings have helped him buy the bus ticket. Anxiety leaches from the pages as surely as the sulphur from the boiled eggs of Lev's co- passenger seeps from her hands. 

What follows fulfills every expectation of impossibility and pain. Without Tremain's gift for the poetry of ordinary life, Lev's setbacks might prove an intolerable read. There is little pleasure in the life of an impoverished immigrant, scant comfort in the hearts of strangers. The brief interludes of joy are provided by fellow travelers and by the memories of happier times. 'Life is not for dreaming, Lev,' Lev's boss tells him. But it is Lev's dream that propels this novel. We are offered hope but never at the expense of truth; the human face of the migrant population. Tremain's authorial voice is strong but manages not to overpower the stocky figure at the centre of the book whose future she insists we invest in. As told by Tremain, it is an investment worth making.

 


8 comments:

  1. Sophie: Have you read 'The Kite Runner', by Khaled Hosseini?

    ReplyDelete
  2. No, Niki but I would like to. Did you enjoy it?

    ReplyDelete
  3. I enjoyed it a lot. I found it a very powerful and moving book. It's one of those books that,once you start reading it, you can`t put it down. It's quite harsh and it made me cry more than once (*blushing), but it also touched my heart in a very positive way. It opens your eyes to another world, another culture. It makes you appreciate what you have and where you live.
    "The Kite Runner tells the story of Amir, a boy from the Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul, who is haunted by the guilt of betraying his childhood friend Hassan, the son of his father's Hazara servant. The story is set against a backdrop of tumultuous events, from the fall of the monarchy in Afghanistan through the Soviet invasion, the mass exodus of refugees to Pakistan and the United States, and the rise of the Taliban regime" (Wikipedia)

    ReplyDelete
  4. I also found it hard to put down ’The Kite Runner’ once I had started reading it. Apart from the topics already mentioned by Niki, one of the themes I thought about for a long time after reading the book was betrayal, and if it was possible, at all, to ever be forgiven, ever make it up to someone, once you had let him down badly. (It’s a little difficult to elaborate on this without revealing an important part of the story).

    ReplyDelete
  5. I finally saw the film last week and thought it was a very powerful story. I will still read the book but it might take a while before I can put the film to the back of my mind. Usually, I prefer to read the book first, but the pull of the film was too strong to resist. I can see how good the book must be.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I definitely prefer to read the book first, as well. Somehow, I am my own 'set designer', 'director' etc., and create lots of images while reading. If I have seen the film first, it's hard for me not to be influenced by what I have already seen, once I begin reading.

    ReplyDelete
  7. There is a somewhat all-encompassing article on adaptation by Salman Rushdie in this Saturday's Guardian Review.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/feb/28/salman-rushdie-novels-film-adaptations

    ReplyDelete
  8. 'Kite Runner' has also been adapted into a play, which I went to see last week. I haven't read the book but I have, like Sophie and others, seen the film. Seeing it performed as a play, live on stage unfolding right in front of you really tore at my heart. I can't stop thinking about it.

    ReplyDelete