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The Road Home [Hardcover]

Rose Tremain
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Aug. 1 2007 Charnwood Large Print
"The Road Home" is the best-selling story of Lev, a middle-aged migrant from Eastern Europe, who moves to London in search of work after losing his wife and job. Lev's London is awash with money, celebrity and complacency. The world Tremain creates is both convincing and poignant. Rose Tremain is one of England's bestselling literary novelists. Her books have won many prizes including the Whitbread Novel of the Year and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. "The Colour" and "The Way I Found Her" are in development as films, and she is currently working on a television project to star Ian McKellen.
--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

Review

'..bravely imaginative, deeply moving, suprising, invigorating and satisfying' - Independent; 'Tremain is a magnificent story-teller' - Independent on Sunday; 'Novels about economic migrants don't have to be as desolate as Steinbeck or as farcical as Marina Lewycka. Somewhere between 'The Grapes of Wrath' and 'Two Caravans' there's room for a story like this one about Lev, whose job at the sawmill in a small eastern European village has gone...You know you're in safe hands with a writer such as Tremain - this won the 2008 Orange Prize - and a reader as sympathetic as Juliet Stevenson.' - Sue Arnold, The Guardian; 'Rose Tremain's novel tells the touching story of Lev, an Eastern European economic migrant, who travels to London to seek his fortune after his wife dies and he loses his job. From his dispossessed perspective Britain seems a terrible place - dirty, greedy and harsh. But there is redemption too, and Lev eventually finds the road home that he has been seeking. Juliet Stevenson gives a graceful reading of this melancholy story with a happy ending.' - Jane Shilling, Daily Mail 'Winner of the 2008 Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction, this latest book by Tremain (The Colour) is the story of widower Lev, an economic migrant who travels from the Eastern Bloc to London to find work to support his child back home. Actress/narrator Juliet Stevenson's (To the Lighthouse) distinct rendering of each character gives this recording the feel of a full-cast production. Listeners who enjoy Anita Brookner and literary fiction will be moved by this realistic portrait. Highly recommended.' -Carly Wiggins, Library Journal Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award: 'Juliet Stevenson's performance of The Road Home is nothing short of astonishing. Tremain's protagonist, Lev, emigrating from an Eastern Bloc country to work in the UK, speaks with a Slavic accent. In his homesick struggles to survive in a foreign culture completely different from his expectations, he meets people with Qatari, Irish, posh-Brit, old-lady, drunk-man, Chinese, Cockney, and young-girl voices. Stevenson renders each so impeccably, and makes them so distinct in timbre and personality as well as accent, that you utterly lose track of the fact that it's all created by one actor. Most of all, she delivers a moving story of one immigrant who occasionally does unwise or dopey things but never loses our interest or sympathy. Cause for celebration.' - B.G., AudioFile --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The road home Oct. 5 2011
Format:Paperback
This is a great purchase. The product fits the seller description. Delivery was done before the announced date. I recommend amazon.ca as a great and reliable business.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  51 reviews
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A human story that should invite not fear but compassion Nov. 17 2008
By Bookreporter - Published on Amazon.com
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. Rose Tremain evokes the controlled chaos, pinpoint timing and near-military precision of a professional kitchen --- it's run like a small autocratic state --- in several brilliantly cinematic scenes. What's exciting is to watch the evolution of Lev's taste: his first encounters with refined cuisine (Auror is not known for four-star bistros), his experiments with cooking, and finally his fantasy of a restaurant of his own. There is an affection for food here --- what it is, what it does, where it comes from --- that makes THE ROAD HOME a nourishing novel as well as a moving one.

I was enthralled, too, by Tremain's dense, Dickens-sized cast of fully realized supporting characters. To name a few: Rudi, Lev's volatile friend back home, a taxi driver whose temperamental secondhand "Tchevi" is a symbol of the U.S. as another "promised land." Lydia, Lev's accidental companion on the bus to London, who develops a crush on him and is often his reluctant savior. His landlord, Christy, a good-hearted, alcoholic Irishman whose wife has left, taking their daughter. The staff of the restaurant, most significantly Lev's lover, Sophie ("Hardly anybody is good," she tells him. "But you are"). The Indian woman Christy courts. The elderly residents of the nursing home Sophie and Lev visit on Sundays. The Suffolk farmer, Midge, "lonely lord of his fruit and vegetable kingdom," who hires Lev as a picker.

Tremain's complex, imaginative people are certainly part of her literary gift, but she also gives them splendidly authentic landscapes to inhabit and big questions to grapple with. I've read five of her eleven novels, and what's astonishing is her range. She writes wonderful historical fiction that is both intimate and panoramic: RESTORATION and MUSIC & SILENCE are set in the 17th century; THE COLOUR is a tale of the 19th-century gold rush in New Zealand; the provocative SACRED COUNTRY, with its transsexual themes, ventures into bold new territory; and THE WAY I FOUND HER is a sophisticated coming-of-age story set in Paris.

THE ROAD HOME, though modern in subject and style, has something of the 19th-century novel about it (that's a compliment). It's meaty, ungimmicky and transporting. Its picaresque plot unfolds without strain as Lev shapes his expatriate existence and mourns his wife and former life. Perhaps the ending is a bit neat. As the title suggests, Lev does in a sense come full circle. But is that a bad thing? (Ambiguous or downbeat endings, I think, are overrated.) Would it have been better for Lev to die --- like his wife, like Hamlet --- or remain a lonely exile? I don't think so.

Although THE ROAD HOME is set in Great Britain, its lessons certainly apply to our own country. A nation of immigrants, it is also a place where someone of a different culture may be treated with loathing and suspicion, as an alien "type" rather than a person. Without being in the least preachy, Tremain shows us ourselves --- the good, the bad and the unforgivably ignorant --- through Lev's eyes. Reading her book has already made me more generous and less suspicious as I ride New York City's multi-ethnic subways. Squeezed into a crowded rush-hour car, I remind myself that the exotically dressed stranger beside me undoubtedly has, like Lev, a human story that should invite not fear but compassion.

--- Reviewed by Kathy Weissman
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A marvelous book: moving and thought-provoking Aug. 16 2008
By Julia Flyte - Published on Amazon.com
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.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In the Kitchen June 11 2009
By Roger Brunyate - Published on Amazon.com
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.

My one problem with the book is a certain inconsistency of tone. Tremain's realism tends to be grittier than life and her upbeats correspondingly more glowing; in this, she is a little like Dickens, a fabulist, a romantic at heart. Lev has some reversals, especially painful when they are his own stupid fault. But on the whole he is lucky, finding jobs in various aspects of the food business and employers perceptive enough to see his strengths. His discovery of good food is a revelation after a life of communist rations. As his skills increase, he takes pride in his new metier and uses it to share his joy with other people. Among these are the residents of a retirement home whose menus (written by his teenage assistant) he enlivens with dishes such as "Chef's fantastic fish gratin with zero bones and non-crap crumb." Despite its familiarity with the underside of London life, THE ROAD HOME eventually plays out as a kind of fable, with Lev as an unlikely Cinderella, whose good fortune comes to him by hard work and the slow emergence of qualities that were in him all the time. [4.5 stars]
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved Lev Oct. 27 2009
By Jeffrey N. Hobbs - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I became a Rose Tremain fan after being entralled by the first novel I read by her: Music and Silence. But the next three Tremain novels were hit-and-miss for me: liked Restoration, hated The Way I Found Her, found The Colour absolutely ho-hum. When I heard that The Road Home had won the Orange Prize, I thought I'd give Tremain another try...and I am so glad that I did.

It has been a long time since I was so entralled by a novel and came to care so much for a protagonist. A month after finishing the book, I find my mind wandering back to Lev's adventures in England. The Road Home is a great novel and also a great work of art. An engaging plot that moves the novel rapidly forward, a rich array of wonderfully-depicted characters not one of which is superfluous, writing that is beautifully crafted and lucid and always readable. Plus, this book has much to say about the New Europe.

Those who are hostile to the idea of economic migration should read this novel. I defy them not to root for Lev!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gotta Love Lev! Aug. 25 2009
By Lauren Bishop-Weidner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Tremain, Rose. The Road Home. New York: Little, Brown & Co., 2007.

This is the story of Lev, a widower who immigrates to England from an unnamed Eastern European country. Tremain's graceful prose, richly described setting details, absorbing story, and fully developed characters take me away from my privileged and prosaic little world into Lev's world, a world once veiled by the Iron Curtain, with unpronounceable names that have too many consonants. A world where the "gray" market flourishes as West meets East through streetwise entrepreneurs. A world where fish sometimes glow in the dark and young women too often die of leukemia, where the electricity may or may not work, where a refurbished bicycle is a primary means of transportation, where sawmills routinely "run out of trees". A world used to deprivation.

From the ten hour bus ride to London to the short "road home" at the end, I was captivated by Lev, an endearing, lovable, honorable, flawed, quintessentially human man. I was equally captivated by the London he occupies and the company he keeps there. We have the pretentiously named G.K. Ashe, known as "Chef", owner/proprietor of a five-star restaurant; Lydia, Lev's seat mate on the long bus ride, a warm and generous woman with "moles like splashes of mud on her face"; Sophie, whose plump arms (and rough sex) catch and keep Lev's attention, after five years of celibacy following his wife's death from cancer at age 36; Christy, Lev's Irish and alcoholic landlord-cum-friend, whose ex-wife seems to have Amazonian qualities. And Rudi, Lev's link to home--Lev finds solace and respite in memories of a lifetime with this cheerful, resilient childhood friend. Rudi's vibrant personality fills the crevices of Lev's homesickness, providing much-needed laughter through both memories and infrequent phone conversations. Rudi's "Tchevi", an ancient Chevrolet Phoenix (a car I neither remember nor could track down), provides local taxi service back home; Rudi keeps the car running through sheer grit. The car itself is a minor character, a vehicle (pardon the pun) through which we see the routine shortages of Lev's home country--and the routine resourcefulness of its people.

This is a socially conscious novel, to be sure. We can't miss the poverty and despair that force Lev to immigrate, but we are drawn into the universal themes of life, his and ours--love, loss, grief, injustice. We identify with Lev even as we are fascinated by his "other-ness."

Tremain's award-winning novel uses old-fashioned pacing, characterization, and narrative panache to stretch our sound-byte-jaded attention spans, wooing us into "something wild and beautiful and full of woe."
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