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The Road Home: A Novel Hardcover – August 26, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Tremain (Restoration) turns in a low-key but emotionally potent look at the melancholia of migration for her 14th book. Olev, a 42-year-old widower from an unnamed former east bloc republic, is taking a bus to London, where he imagines every man resembles Alec Guinness and hard work will be rewarded by wealth. He has left behind a sad young daughter, a stubborn mother and the newly shuttered sawmill where he had worked for years. His landing is harsh: the British are unpleasant, immigrants are unwelcome, and he's often overwhelmed by homesickness. But Lev personifies Tremain's remarkable ability to craft characters whose essential goodness shines through tough, drab circumstances. Among them are Lydia, the fellow expatriate; Christy, Lev's alcoholic Irish landlord who misses his own daughter; and even the cruelly demanding Gregory, chef-proprietor of the posh restaurant where Lev first finds work. A contrived but still satisfying ending marks this adroit émigré's look at London. (Aug.)
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From The New Yorker

Tremain�s protagonists are often faced with trials that have a fabled quality�a doomed romance in the seventeenth-century Danish court; a sex change in nineteen-fifties Suffolk�and her latest novel is no exception. Lev has left his mother and child in his village in Eastern Europe to seek work in London, bringing with him an E.U. passport, a handful of English phrases, and a small stash of cash and vodka. At first, he is repelled by what he finds: the shaved heads, the greasy food in disposable packaging, the women thrusting their breasts at him from the pages of the daily paper. But opportunities also push themselves forward in this cold new world; soon he is scheming for a way to unite his future and his past. At once timeless and bitingly contemporary, this novel explores the life now lived by millions�when one�s hope lies in one country and one�s heart in another.
Copyright ©2008Click here to subscribe to The New Yorker END

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; First Edition edition (August 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316002615
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316002615
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,266,211 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Two months after its publication, everybody ought to be talking about THE ROAD HOME. It ought to be the book of the year, and it isn't. It's my book of the year, though. I dreaded an uplifting parable of the Immigrant Experience. What I got was a hero of such specific integrity, depth, decency and pain that his journey becomes not simply the story of a stranger in a strange land, but a revelation of the truths "foreigners" tell us about ourselves.

When the sawmill where Lev worked closes down ("They ran out of trees"), he leaves Auror, his (fictional) village somewhere in Eastern Europe, entrusting his young daughter to his mother's care (his wife has died, tragically young). In London, some people are kind to him; others, casually cruel: "This is how these people see me," Lev thinks at one point, "as a turnip with no intelligence and no voice." He never comes off as a victim, though. He finds a rented room and a job washing dishes in a chic restaurant, and ultimately discovers a passion and talent for cooking that he parlays into a dream for the future --- and a pathway back to his homeland.

Lev is almost old-fashioned in his sensibility (and even in his vices, cigarettes and vodka). In teeming, driven modern London, he is allergic to the brittle, pseudo-creative denizens of the culture of cool. But he seems to have an instinct for connecting with those who appreciate his discipline and understand his lingering sadness (it's no accident that he improves his English by struggling through HAMLET; it's as if the ghosts of Auror have followed him to Britain).

Probably my favorite moments in the book are set in the restaurant.
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Format: Hardcover
"The Road Home" is one of those books that succeeds in making you look at the world around you with new eyes. It's the story of Lev, a widower who immigrates from an unspecified country in Eastern Europe to the UK in the belief that it will be easy to find well-paying work there and thereby support his mother and daughter back home. Instead he finds that London is both considerably more expensive and less welcoming than he anticipates. Eventually he does find work and start to build some friendships, but it's far from an easy journey for him.

Rose Tremain makes us care about Lev and acutely communicates his loneliness and isolation. Occasionally he does things that we don't like, but he still maintains our sympathy and interest throughout the book. In fact, all of the characters are perfectly realized and feel incredibly real. The first two thirds of "The Road Home" are beautifully written: this is one of those books that you carry around with you so that you can read a bit more whenever you get a chance. It made me think about (and care about) the experiences of immigrants in a new way.

My one criticism of the book is the ending, which worked on one level but felt too contrived and too neat on another. It was also telegraphed well in advance, so that when it did eventually wrap up it felt almost like an anti-climax rather than a culmination of all that had gone before. I loved this book very much, but the final third did not grab me as much as what had gone before. Nevertheless, one of my favorite books this year.
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Format: Hardcover
Do publishers not want to sell books? The hardback cover shows a faceless street in far-from central London, bedraggled shoppers walking past gray concrete buildings blurred by the streaming rain. The opening description is not any more enticing: a fortyish man from some Eastern European country, widowed and out of work, journeys to London by fifty-hour bus to try to make money to support his mother and young daughter. He finds a city more expensive, less hospitable, and more xenophobic than anything he could have imagined. Within days, he is sleeping under somebody's basement steps.

But he also finds a few unexpected acts of kindness, like the Moslem cafe owner who gives him a temporary job and a free meal. Our hero, Lev, turns out to be a resilient person with a lot of determination and a sense of humor -- humor that (once he gets a cell phone) he shares with a friend back home, a crazy optimist who sees him through some bad times. Before long, the book that I was reluctant to read had become the book I could hardly put down. There have been numerous accounts of new immigrants to Britain, notably Zadie Smith's WHITE TEETH and Monica Ali's BRICK LANE, but this is unusual in being seen from an Eastern European perspective. It is also unusual in that Lev never intends to stay in England. Even though he makes some very good friends in London (including a passionate lover), part of his thoughts remain with his family. The book thus becomes a sensitive study in love and loneliness, as the road home leads through some strange detours.
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