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The Free World Hardcover – Mar 21 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd; First Edition edition (March 21 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1443403997
  • ISBN-13: 978-1443403993
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16 x 3.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 703 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #112,556 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Reader Writer Runner TOP 50 REVIEWER on July 4 2011
Format: Hardcover
"My existence will be the same wherever we go." So asserts patriarch Samuil Krasnansky, a Red Army veteran who views emigration from Soviet-controlled Latvia not as a chance at freedom but as evidence of his own demise. David Bezmozgis sets his debut novel in Rome, a rest stop between two worlds, where Samuil, his wife, his sons and daughters-in-law, and his two grandchildren, await visas to travel to North America. Outsiders in their homeland, the family members now sit in limbo on the fringes of Italian society, juggling the hopes and the dangers inherent in "The Free World."

The novel contains much political detail: history surrounding the Bolshevik Revolution, the late 1970s status of the Soviet Union and allusions to peace talks between Egypt and Israel. Not, in my opinion, fodder for gripping fiction but Bezmozgis's focus and precise observations allow the story to flow unburdened. Even during moments of little action, when characters brood or reflect on the past, the book moves quickly and maintains the reader's interest.

Despite tinges of melodrama and the occasional skim-able chapter, "The Free World" provides a multi-faceted, genuine and unglorified version of the Jewish immigrant story.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Tommy Dooley HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on May 14 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is the debut novel of Russian/Canadian David Bezmozgis. It tells a part of the story of the Russian, Jewish, émigrés that were allowed to leave the ongoing revolution of the Soviet and go to the `free world'.

As his vehicle he uses primarily the family Krasnansky - who arrive in a hot Rome in the summer of 1978. They think they are on their way to America as does everyone else of the thousands of émigrés and that they will be welcomed with open arms. Many like Samuil Krasnansky, held important positions back in Riga, he is now levelled more completely than communism ever could to the true ranks of the proletariat. His sons are constantly feuding and scheming as do everyone else. The primary characters are his second son Alec and his wife Polina, they seem to be the weather vane for the families fortunes.

It tells the story of their stay in Rome, and how they eke out a subsistence with dodgy deals, all kinds of deceit and often a helping hand from the refugee organisations. The Russian authorities had been quite generous in letting the Jews go and had given papers to all sorts including refuseniks, dissidents and criminals. This melting pot of political friction, religious ambivalence and criminal tendencies are all explored by Bezmozgis. The lives of each of the characters is explored often by going back to the past to recall what they have been through to bring them to this point, especially the sacrifices and the selfish choices as well as giving into the all too prevalent passions. These continue to haunt and guide them in their present position of being in Rome's waiting room. That is why the Krasnansky's decide on Canada when they are told that the Canadians are not as fussy as the Americans.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Rodge TOP 50 REVIEWER on Oct. 25 2011
Format: Hardcover
My sole complaint about this book is that everything's a a bit lifeless and distant. I'm not entirely convinced that this is about real characters.

How cruel of me to start with a complaint. The rest is fine or great. Bezmozgis doesn't blow you away but he does make his job look easy - you never pause to notice his technique as the pages fly by. This is quite welcome in a "literary" novel, whatever that is. There's definitely enough plot here to keep the story within a recognizable structure, but not so much that you'd accuse Bezmozgis of being unfashionably plot-obsessed. This book is consistently like that - enough of certain aspects to make it readable to normal people and enough literary technique to impress the ones who notice and care.

The story itself is about Jews who escape the Soviet Union (Latvia, to be exact) and are putting in time in and near Rome until they can find a country to take them. Alec is an irresponsible playboy, Samuil is the weatherbeaten, unknowable father, and other family members round out the action.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Vlad Thelad TOP 500 REVIEWER on Feb. 20 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Writing about the trails and tribulations of émigrés is a an overexploited subject matter, one that has propelled some writers to great heights and condemned many more to the world of clichéd stories and characters. Bezmozgis rises above the usual boundaries of conflicting old v new world, culture shock and generation gaps. He does so by bringing us consistently credible characters, with a richness of diverse viewpoints and takes on life. He is absolutely non-judgemental about his characters, allowing us into their lives to draw our own conclusions. This is a very human story, moving, neatly crafted and that will stay with you for a while.
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By Nancy on April 3 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It certainly puts a face and reason behind all of those random begging messages you get in your e-mail. I liked the cultural peek into African life. It makes one pause at the brutal nature of humans.
Worth a read.
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