From Publishers Weekly
De Bernières (Corelli's Mandolin
) delivers an oddball love story of two spiritually displaced would-be lovers. During a dreary late 1970s London winter, stolid and discontented Chris is drawn to seedy and mysterious Roza, a Yugoslav émigrée he initially believes is a prostitute. She isn't (though she claims to have been), and soon the two embark on an awkward friendship (Chris would like to imagine it as a romance) in which Roza spins her life's stories for her nondescript, erstwhile suitor. Roza, whose father supported Tito, moved to London for opportunity but instead found a school of hard knocks, and she's all too happy to dole out the lessons she learned to the slavering Chris. The questions of whether Roza will fall for Chris and whether Chris will leave his wife (he calls her the Great White Loaf) carry the reader along, as the reliability of Chris and Roza, who trade off narration duties, is called into question—sometimes to less than ideal effect. The conclusion is crushing, and Chris's scorching regret burns brightly to the last line. (Oct.)
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Though it treads little new ground, this lingering account of a tortured love affair—"a [gripping] study in frustration, both sexual and romantic" (London Times
)—also meditates on the art and power of storytelling and the myths of East versus West. However, critics observed that de Berni√®res spends a great deal of time on Roza's Yugoslavian yarns, which are largely irrelevant to the plot, and not enough on Chris and Roza. They also found fault with these relatively unsympathetic characters: several dismissed the exotic Roza as a stereotype; some considered Chris a colorless Everyman; and others a perverted, "self-pitying creep" (Telegraph
). While A Partisan's Daughter
fails to measure up to the much-loved Corelli's Mandolin
, this unsettling novel will entertain de Berni√®res fans who don't expect a repeat performance.
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