The Road Home by Rose Tremain
Britain from an immigrant’s perspective is an alien world. Lev is from an unnamed country in Eastern Europe, and the book follows Lev’s journey from sleeping rough on arrival and delivering leaflets for less than the minimum wage to getting a job washing up in a restaurant kitchen, where his hourly pittance of £5.30 is more than he could earn in a day at home. Tremain expertly evokes the hopelessness of life in Lev’s post-communist home country, a stark contrast to the fast-paced, bewildering, wealthy and overfed Britain Lev encounters when he arrives on a bus, with nothing but a bag of clothes and a smattering of English, ready to earn his fortune. Lev will get under your skin, tug at your heartstrings and make you want to shake him with frustration, all at the same time.
The precision of Tremain’s prose, her accuracy of observation and the depth of her understanding of the human being combine to create characters who are rounded, flawed and achingly real. It’s a book which comes to life so much that it leaves you wondering what happened to the fictional characters when the book ended.
Loneliness pervades the novel, but is tempered by the humanity of the characters and the strong ties between them, and the humour which crops up in the most unlikely of places. It’s a tale of loss, of loneliness and of memories, but also hope and forgiveness. It’s about the strong ties of friendship and the pursuit of a dream, finished by a perfectly balanced- if rushed- ending which leaves just the right number of questions unanswered.
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