Review: The Road Home, Rose Tremain

How long it took me to figure out that the reason I didn’t know what country the protagonist was from was that the country the protagonist was from was never named and may quite well have been intended to be fictional: Two-thirds. Two-thirds of the book. You know why that is? Because I am dumb.

The Road Home was a gift from the lovely Fiona of The Book Coop. Fiona’s note said “It did cross my mind briefly to buy you Rose Tremain’s whole works”, and y’all, I have to say I am in great sympathy with this position. If I could buy all of you the complete works of Diana Wynne Jones and send it to you by tomorrow’s post, I would do it. Maybe very gradually, like maybe I would send y’all two of her books every year on your birthdays, until at last you all owned everything she’d ever written. Don’t you wish I were wealthy?

Lev is leaving his home in Eastern Europe to seek work in England, to get a job that will pay enough for him to send money back to his mother and daughter. His wife died several years ago. Though at first he can’t get enough money together to cover his lodgings, he pretty soon gets a job as a dishwasher in a posh restaurant in London. He makes friends with his landlord, with a fellow emigrant from his country, with one of the sous-chefs at his restaurant. Meanwhile he has begun to hear rumors about the fate of his hometown.

When I started reading The Road Home, I was afraid it was going to be a lot of unpleasant characters and painfully awkward situations. I thought Lev was going to wander the city homeless for months and months, and everyone was going to be mean to him, and it was going to end up a bitter commentary on the plight of immigrants in London and how they can’t win no matter what they do because the system sucks and so do people. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were nice characters and Lev could find things to make himself happy. Even when I wasn’t on board with Lev as a person (there were a number of moments like that), I enjoyed the people around him: his landlord, his friend Rudy, an old lady at a nursing home where he sometimes cooks.

This was one of those books that I enjoyed even though it is not that kind of book. I am not, by and large, wild about modern mainstream fiction. With exceptions! Of course. But I’m just saying, by and large, I don’t go seeking out modern mainstream fiction. Which is why I love having a book blog, and why I love being in a book club: because then I read stuff that’s out of my comfort zone. My brain: broadened! Broadened by the dual power of y’all’s awesomeness and…what?

THAT IS RIGHT. MY TBR SHELF. MY WONDERFUL TBR SHELF.

Other reviews:

an adventure in reading
Page247
Eve’s Alexandria
Lizzy’s Literary Life
The Book Whisperer
Bermudaonion’s Weblog
Reading Matters
The Magic Lasso
Park Benches & Bookends
Novels Now

Did I miss yours?

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25 thoughts on “Review: The Road Home, Rose Tremain

  1. I read a book by Rose Tremain a few years ago. Can’t even remember what it was anymore. I didn’t hate it, but I have never rushed out and read more from her, either…

    • Yeah, I don’t necessarily want to read another Rose Tremain book right away. What was the one you read? I want to try her again sometime eventually.

    • Really, not even at the beginning? I liked him better at the beginning, but found his circumstances super dreary. By the end he was in a better situation, but I liked him less.

  2. Hmm, wonder if I would like this, if for nothing more than that a few weeks ago we took our kids to visit a friend in London who emigrated there from Poland during WWII, and he charmed them with the stories of how he learned Hungarian and what it was like in London before it got so darn crowded!

  3. I think I only own one book by Rose Tremain, but it’s not this one. I like books that defy expectations, and it sounds like Lev’s story did that for you. I also don’t really gravitate towards mainstream fiction, but have been known to be enchanted by a few books that I might not have ever even thought of reading. I also think that there are probably some real gems hidden in my TBR shelves, and what I wouldn’t give for more hours in the day to explore them all!

    • Oh, I know! I sometimes wish I could get a little bit sick and be able to lay around for several days and just read and read and read. Except then I remember how unpleasant it is to be sick.

  4. Oh man, I do wish you were wealthy.

    Now to ponder what author’s works I would package up and send to everyone. Kate Atkinson, I think. Or Sarah Waters. Or both, as they’re neither of them so prolific. Hmm…

    • I know, right? I’d be the coolest wealthy person ever. I would not be douchey at all, and I’d send books to all! Diana Wynne Jones and like, the Harriet Vine books.

  5. Hows come I feel like I have not heard of this book? and yet the name of the author seems familiar? But I have no recollection of anything she has written?
    YIPPEE for the continued wonderful powers of the TBR.

  6. Please become wealthy at your earliest convenience.

    I don’t read much modern mainstream fiction either, but I feel like I used to own one of Rose Tremain’s books. Maybe I just saw it on a shelf at my aunt’s or something. She’s a great devotee of modern mainstream fiction, and I always poke at her shelves when I go over there.

  7. I *do* wish you were wealthy. Any chance of you becoming wealthy? I mean, I can try and be patient… 😉

    I know I’ve got a Rose Tremain on my bookshelf, but I don’t believe it’s this one. I think I might like to have this one on my bookshelf, though, me being a lover of this modern mainstream fiction stuff and you making it sound good and like a defyer (Is this a word? I’m not sure. Let’s pretend it is.) of expectations.

    • Megan, there is just so little chance of my ever becoming wealthy. Which sucks! I’d be good at it! But if I do, I’ll have you on a list of book recipients. :p

  8. “This was one of those books that I enjoyed even though it is not that kind of book. I am not, by and large, wild about modern mainstream fiction. With exceptions! Of course. But I’m just saying, by and large, I don’t go seeking out modern mainstream fiction. Which is why I love having a book blog, and why I love being in a book club: because then I read stuff that’s out of my comfort zone. My brain: broadened! Broadened by the dual power of y’all’s awesomeness and…what?

    THAT IS RIGHT. MY TBR SHELF. MY WONDERFUL TBR SHELF.”

    I heartily agree. Reading book blogs and working in a library has broadened my brain so much it makes me giddy. Hurray for brain broadening! 🙂

  9. I would like to read Rose Tremain and I don’t know what’s holding me back. I thought she would be more up your street than you think, Jenny, what with Sacred Country being all about mixed-up genders and Music & Silence being all restoration-y and dreamy. But then, what do I know? I’m glad you liked this one – you remind me that I do really want to get around to her novels.

  10. I absolutely loved this novel but, admittedly, I struggled with it for quite awhile (persisting because I was doing one of my All-Orange-Prize-Longlist things).

    Likely I’d been expecting something different, but once I settled into the pace of it (her prose is rather dense, I find, not clunky by any means, rather the opposite, but still stuffed with things I need to slow to take in), I sunk down in.

    By the end I was so engrossed in the story that I really didn’t want to leave the characters (and not because I found their situations easy to relate to, simply because RT made me care, despite my initial – seeming – disinterest).

    I’ve just finished Sacred Country and I’m actually thinking of re-reading already because I feel like I missed as much as I absorbed (even though I loved it). She’s a real favourite of mine even though I haven’t read that much (these and some short stories).

  11. I don’t know why this review didn’t turn up in my blog feed thing or maybe it did and somehow I missed it.

    I’m glad you read it Jenny and that you liked it (just enough).

    Her name is somewhat recognisable – maybe for no reason at all because I had the same feeling when I first saw one of her books (Music and Silence) in the charity shop.

    It could be that she’s won the Orange Prize… been longlisted for the Man Booker (Trespass, not one of her best) and a long time ago they made a movie of her book “Restoration” which I haven’t seen. And I don’t want to see it either as it looks crap.

    The Road Home was written in a much more ‘normal’ way – she often writes in a style that is much more… off-key and foggy.

  12. I found The Road Home ages ago in a charity shop and bought it for $1.50 because I enjoyed Restoration (and the movie wasn’t crap, as I recall) and Music and Silence. One of the panel on the First Tuesday Book Club, on ABC TV Australia, mentioned this one favourably so I retrieved it from the TBR pile and it is excellent. As are all the characters, especially Lydia.
    I can recommend it. Yes, I read more crime fiction than mainstream and comment on it on various sites, and am picky about fiction, but this one has the supreme virtue of readability and it touches the heart.

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