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Uncle Rudolf

Uncle Rudolf [Kindle Edition]

Paul Bailey
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Amazon Review

One of the post-war English literary greats, Paul Bailey is esteemed for the piercing finesse of his writing. His new novel Uncle Rudolf exemplifies that trait: it packs a telling and surprising emotional punch, despite its apparent slightness. The narrator is a partly Jewish Romanian, Andrew Peters, looking back on his colourful life. The eponymous hero is the narrator's opera-singing uncle, who rescued the young Peters from proto-Nazi Eastern Europe, and brought him to England. As Peters regards his early years by the Danube we get to see a picture of old mittel Europe through the exile's nostalgic and rhapsodic eyes:
Why was I thinking of pickled vegetables--of cauliflower and carrots; of green and red peppers; of radishes and red cabbage? I hadn't eaten the dish in a lifetime... and then, with an involuntary cry of anguish, and clear blue sky, I saw my mother and me tickling my father, who is pretending to be asleep on the grass.
Poignant stuff, in itself. But Bailey/Andrews' intent isn't merely to paint a cameo portrait of Yiddish life, it's also to tell the story of how the stranger becomes the Englishman, and how intellectual and artistic values can be translated across borders.

As the scene shifts from Vienna to London to the opera houses of the world, what abides is the wit and life force of Uncle Rudolf and his bemused coterie of exiles: "He spoke in French, and very occasionally said something in his native Polish, but there was one English word, and one only, that he loved. It was "belly". He would pat his stomach and say "Mon belly", and then he'd laugh out loud. "Mon belly, Monsieur Petrescu. C'est enorme." This is a charming, exquisite, uplifting novel. --Sean Thomas


‘An exquisitely composed novel of doubleness, dubeity and prolonged protected silences.’ The Guardian

‘The underlying story is sad – harrowing, indeed – but there is spicy humour here too. Andrew himself is an appealing narrator: honest, troubled, perceptive. It is the clarity of his vision that gives the novel its crisp and satisfying accuracy, and makes it one of Paul Bailey’s best books.’ Independent

Praise for Paul Bailey
'He has a rare feeling for language and an understanding of character which few can rival.' Selina Hastings, Daily Telegraph

'A book the depth and beauty of which it is hard to do justice in the language of criticism and dissection.' Alex Clark, TLS

'Old Soldiers has taken root in my head. It's a spare, intense, elliptical novel, beautifully and cunningly set in a London which is at once drawn from Dickens and bang up-to-date.' Jonathan Raban, Sunday Times

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize

'A magnificent novel, moving, eccentric and unforgettable.' Daily Telegraph

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize

'Rich in characters, situations, jokes and comic repartee. It's a fiendishly clever and funny book.' Anthony Thwaite, Observer

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 187 KB
  • Print Length: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; New Ed edition (30 Jan 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00HY5GLX4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #214,556 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A subtle story of exiles from fascist Romania 5 Sep 2010
By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Andrew Peterson was born Andrei Petrescu in Romania, and he tells his story at the age of 70. His maternal grandfather was Jewish, and that is enough to imperil the family in 1937 Romania when Codreanu, the founder of the antisemitic Iron Guard, was on the ascendant and violence was already on the rampage. Andrei's father decided to send his seven year old son to England to be looked after by his paternal uncle Rudolf Peterson (born Rudi Petrescu), who had made a name for himself there and in other European capitals as a singer in operettas. Rudolf had seen some time ago that how Romania was becoming increasingly fascist, had become a voluntary exile in London, and had urged his brother and sister-in-law - in vain - to leave "the beastly country" of their birth. (The miasma of antisemitism in Romania had not even disappeared when Andrew revisited his ancestral home after 1989.)

Andrew never saw his parents again, and though he was very comfortable with his beloved Uncle Rudolf in the day-time, his dreams at night were haunted by his absent parents. Rudolf loved his nephew dearly, worked hard to turn him into an Englishman, and tried to protect him from suffering - so it is not until Andrew is eighteen that he learnt of the fate of his parents.

Much of the book, as its title suggests, is a rich portrait of the uncle who was the key figure in Andrew's life: of his ambitions and disappointments, of his relationships with a number of women, of his generosity, of his charismatic, amusing and carefree exterior covering up a deeper melancholia, grief, anger and self-contempt.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Uncle Rudolf 19 July 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Andrei Petrescu, son of a Romanian Jew, is re-invented as Andrew Peters when, as a worried seven-year-old, he arrives in England in 1937 to live with his father's brother, Rudolf, a very good-looking, charismatic and much-loved operetta singer, who does his utmost to welcome Andrew into his home. Andrew gradually settles into life with Rudolf, watching his uncle's performances and enjoying his kindness and sense of humour but, at night, Andrew is haunted by his memories of Romania and of the last time he saw his parents. Uncle Rudolf, who is aware of the fate of his brother and his wife, decides to delay sharing this knowledge with his beloved nephew, and instead does all he can to make Andrew feel loved and valued. However, in his endeavours to protect and care for Andrew, Rudolf unwittingly spoils his nephew for life outside of his over-protective embrace. At the age of seventy, Andrew decides to write a memoir about his unusual upbringing, and it is through his memories, as his thoughts move backwards and forwards in time, that the reader learns about the varied and rather eccentric life of Uncle Rudolf, of Andrew's place within that life and ultimately of the fate of Andrew's parents.

A tender, beautifully written, unusual and very poignant story with a haunting feel to the narrative, this is a novel that I feel is best read in one sitting in order to really immerse oneself into the fabric of Andrew's and Rudolf's lives. Although the story does have its lighter and even quite humorous moments, Paul Bailey's novel is a tale of loss, of regret and of how one can become imprisoned by the past. This is the first novel I have read by this author - although I do have:Kitty and Virgil on one of my bookcases - and having been impressed by 'Uncle Rudolf' has made me interested in looking out for more from Paul Bailey.

4 Stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BEGUILING 1 Sep 2013
What begins as a ripe evocation of a beloved uncle seen larger than life unfolds through grand adventures, comic turns, romantic interludes to sadder and more shopworn realities. This is an elegant and moving novel. Paul Bailey is a master.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, short and sweet 27 April 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Having previously enjoyed reading a Paul Bailey book, i was looking forward to this book and i wasn't disappointed. It was a joy to read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Uncle Rudolph by Paul Bailey 23 Oct 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Whilst browsing through books I came across the author. I was intrigued by the range of titles and subjects.
The narrative and subject was sad and amusing.I read it in just three sittings.
I look forward to my next purchase by Paul Bailey
Les Archer
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