Tuesday, 1 April 2008

My Orange Prize Review #1 "The Road Home" by Rose Tremain

The first of my Orange Prize parcels has arrived. So here goes…

The Road Home by Rose Tremain is the story of Lev, a polish economic migrant, who leaves behind 100% unemployment in his home town of Auror to come to London. Lev is still coming to terms with the premature death of his wife, and initially it seems that Lev’s quest is purely one of survival in a foreign country, living by the wit and wisdom of Rudi, his Tchevi driving friend from back home.

As the story unfolds, and Lev’s relationships with Christy the Irish alcoholic landlord and Sophie the nymphomaniac love interest evolve, the focus of the book clearly shifts to being about Lev’s journey out of depression and his reawakened feelings of love, lust and purpose.

It would be fair to say that Rose Tremain has employed some stereotypes in her characterisation, but who’s to say they aren’t true to life, and they serve the purpose of making the story and the settings recognisable to anyone who has lived in Britain in the last 10 years.

Lev is basically a good bloke, but flawed. There are occasional cringe-worthy moments which make you want to shake Lev and tell him to get a grip, which I suspect is exactly as the author intended. The character I would have loved to have seen more of is Simone. She turns up in the later chapters and made me guffaw out loud.

Don’t be mislead, this is not a cheery book. It’s largely one of desperate people in dire straits, and consequently is not a book I’m likely to pick up again in a hurry or particularly recommend to others.

It’s a realistic portrayal of the monotony of survival, and our daily struggle to lead our lives towards some sense of purpose. It’s pragmatic, honest and humane, but it’s not gripping, hilarious or emotive. Yes, I’m that shallow.

On the basis that this is the first book I’ve read from the Orange Prize Longlist I’m going to maintain my ranking for “The Road Home” at number 11. Mid-table respectability.

The Road Home is available in hardback at all good bookshops including our friends at Amazon. Paperback edition not due until July 2008.

Other books by Rose Tremain include;
Sadler's Birthday (1976), Letter to Sister Benedicta (1978), The Cupboard (1981), Journey to the Volcano (1985), The Swimming Pool Season (1985), Restoration (1989), Sacred Country (1992), The Way I Found Her (1997), Music and Silence (1999), The Colour (2003)

My predictions for the Orange Prize in order of which books I think I'm going to like best

1. Elif Shafak - The Bastard of Istanbul
2. Lauren Liebenberg - The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam
3. Dalia Sofer - The Septembers of Shiraz
4. Gail Jones - Sorry
5. Anne Enright - The Gathering
6. Linda Grant - The Clothes on Their Backs
7. Heather O'Neill - Lullabies for Little Criminals
8. Anita Amirrezvani - The Blood of Flowers
9. Nancy Huston - Fault Lines
10. Deborah Moggach - In The Dark
11. Rose Tremain - The Road Home
12. Patricia Wood - Lottery
13. Charlotte Mendelson - When We Were Bad
14. Carol Topolski - Monster Love
15. Anita Nair - Mistress
16. Stella Duffy - The Room of Lost Things
17. Sadie Jones - The Outcast
18. Jennifer Egan - The Keep
19. Scarlett Thomas - The End of Mr. Y
20. Tessa Hadley - The Master Bedroom

No comments: