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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars `100 stories rolled into one'.
It can be crippling for a writer when one of their books becomes a worldwide sensation, and with a read like Captain Corelli's Mandolin it was seen as inevitable, however, after reading A Partisans Daughter it doesn't seem as if he has fallen into this category. This book is not only engaging and captivating but also unexpected.
Looking in hindsight at the first few...
Published on 3 Jan. 2010 by G. Curtis

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Loneliness expressed through a conversation
Novella from de Bernieres written in the form of a conversation. Chris is bored, middle aged, middle England, suffering loss of meaning in a tired marriage that has past its sell-buy date. Roza is from Yugoslavia and full of all the passion that Chris is missing from his life. They meet when Chris attempts to pick up a prostitute, and mistakenly chooses Roza. He is...
Published on 24 Mar. 2011 by John Holland


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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars `100 stories rolled into one'., 3 Jan. 2010
By 
G. Curtis - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Partisan's Daughter (Paperback)
It can be crippling for a writer when one of their books becomes a worldwide sensation, and with a read like Captain Corelli's Mandolin it was seen as inevitable, however, after reading A Partisans Daughter it doesn't seem as if he has fallen into this category. This book is not only engaging and captivating but also unexpected.
Looking in hindsight at the first few pages, it's misleading. De Bernières introduction provokes a tonal feeling of sexual deviancy and promiscuity due to his prolific referencing to prostitution. The story starts with Chris, a middle-aged man who is trapped in a burnt out marriage. Chris recounts the story of a friend who has told of his experiences with a prostitute. From here De Bernières moves onto Chris' own `experience'. However, Chris' encounter is far from the stories of his friend. He befriends Roza, a Serbian Partisan's Daughter mistaken to be a prostitute, who, instead of having sex with Chris, takes him on a different journey every time they meet. De Bernières descriptive approach enables the reader to fully engage with the story due to his ability to sparingly flesh-out the story, leaving enough for the reader to apply their own unique subjective imagery. Over a long period of time, and with each visit, Roza tells Chris her life story. However, one is never sure whether Chris is there for the stories or there to see Roza; and as the story progresses, it becomes transparent that Chris isn't sure either.
A Partisan's Daughter is written in the form of memoirs, and interchanges from narrator to narrator. De Bernières personal approach lets the reader make their own decision on the characters, rather than an overt third person narrative that can cause detachment, it feels as if the narrators are talking directly to the reader. A Partisan's Daughter takes you all over the world with different stories relating to different emotions and raising different Eastern European political issues, all from the tiny dilapidated shack the story is set in. It is thanks to this vast scope that enables the novel to captivate such a wide audience, and because of the different worldly scenarios that De Bernières creates, it can relate to many people's own experiences. Because of the love, hate and just the emotions people feel, the book hooks the reader's emotional side and reflects their own feelings letting you see them in a different context through Roza's recollections. However, there is one flaw that is persistent, the inconsistent language from Roza. At some points, the English seems fluent; however, at the beginning of the story her English language seems basic. `Oh, you think I'm bad girl'. If this is noticed early on, it can become irritating.
If someone asked me whether they should read this book, my answer would be yes. Because of the diverse topics and experiences in the story, it doesn't let you get bored. To describe this book into one sentence it would be `100 stories rolled into one'.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Serbian Nights, 16 Jun. 2009
This review is from: A Partisan's Daughter (Paperback)
I used to buy a packet of button-sized biscuits each topped with a tooth-decaying whirl of variously-coloured rock-solid icing sugar, they were called Little Gems and I loved them. Sadly you can't get them anymore but you can get this instead, a little gem by Louis de Bernieres that is just as delicious and leaves you wanting more, which is just how I like them, rather than overly long like so many otherwise excellent novels.

Back in the 70's and mirroring the country's political crisis in his personal circumstances, Chris is a forty-something travelling salesman who has pretty much given up on the likelihood of any more pleasure let alone excitement in his life, which definitely includes sex with his disinterested wife. One evening, for no apparent reason and seemingly quite out of character, he somehow finds himself sub-consciously in kerb-crawling mode and cack-handedly tries to pick up a girl in North London who he mistakenly decides is on the game. That girl is Roza, one-time hostess-come-prostitute (so Chris might be excused his error), Serbian daughter of one of Titos's partisans and currently inhabitant of a derelict property in Archway. Sequentially confused and then amused by Chris's blunder, and subsequently having put Chris right about her current circumstances, Roza nonetheless gets into his car and, in wonderfully direct and east-European English, tells him to take her home, it is, after all, the least he can do. He dutifully and shamefacedly does as ordered, from which encounter blossoms an acquaintance, leading to a deliciously slow-burning friendship leading to a wonderful Arabian-Nights tale of Roza's life and Chris's fall into basic infatuation.

Apart from Roza's house-mates, a motley bunch of false-identities including the delightfully vacant BDU, or Bob Dylan Upstairs, whose stuttering love-life is alone worthy of greater exposure but is left tantalisingly unexplored, the only characters in the story are Chris, Roza and Roza's trail of exotic pleasures, misery, heartache and trauma. Told by chain-smoking Roza as a series of episodes, each one released as Chris pays another coffee-drinking visit to the Archway ruin, this is a beautiful, funny, romantic, tragic and rapturous tale that captivates both Chris and the reader.

Is it fiction or fantasy, well who cares, written as well as this it simply doesn't matter. You can interpret this as a tale of lost opportunity or once-in-a-lifetime friendship, depending on your predisposition to life, but either way simply lose yourself in a cascade of old-fashioned story-telling and forget whatever else it was you meant to do, lie back and enjoy. Bliss.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Loneliness expressed through a conversation, 24 Mar. 2011
By 
John Holland (Surrey, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Partisan's Daughter (Paperback)
Novella from de Bernieres written in the form of a conversation. Chris is bored, middle aged, middle England, suffering loss of meaning in a tired marriage that has past its sell-buy date. Roza is from Yugoslavia and full of all the passion that Chris is missing from his life. They meet when Chris attempts to pick up a prostitute, and mistakenly chooses Roza. He is embarrased into offering her a lift home.

Thus begins their relatonship, with Chris finding excuses to visit, to listen to Roza's stories of her life in Yugoslavia with her Partisan father and her exploits since moving to London. The stories evolve in alternating monologue, with each telling their side of the story.

The story is a slow burner, with an evolving relationship between the characters and an underlying sexually charged connecton, that is clearly building to a crescendo. The manner of the apogee is unexpected from the earlier story, but suitably poignant. The only let-down is the concluson of the book following this point, which feels disappointingly rapid and concluded in haste.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars an unusual one for de Bernieres, 2 Feb. 2009
By 
Alexander Bryce (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Partisan's Daughter (Hardcover)
It is dificult to categorise this one. As with Red Dog[see my recent review] it is neither an epic historical novel per Birds Without Wings and Captain Corelli nor a mythical romp per Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts and The Troublesome Offspring Of Cardinal Guzman. This book is on a much smaller scale , but none the less as enjoyable.
It is like eaves'dropping on an intimate conversation which is really none of our business. Perhaps this intimacy hightens the drama ,humour and urgency to finish the book in one sitting. The lives of the two narrators unfold:The lonely sexually frustrated middle aged man; the young Yugoslav of the title with her roller coaster background of romance, abuse and hurt. Through their conversations we watch their love develop but will it be consumated?
At the end we know who Chris is , but who is The Partisans Daughter?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Partisan's Daughter by Louis de Bernieres, 24 April 2011
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This review is from: A Partisan's Daughter (Paperback)
This is the story of Chris and Roza set in the late 1970s. Chris is a 40-something sales rep, stuck in a humdrum life and a loveless marriage. One evening he decides to pick up a prostitute, something he has never done before. That same evening Roza decides to dress up as a prostitute and streetwalk, something she has never done before. She gets into his car and he drives her home and that's as far as they go. Chris can't keep away from Roza though and pays many visits to her home. Here Roza tells him her life stories about growing up in fractious Yugoslavia, her relationships with other men, particularly her father, and how she ends up in London. Whilst this is happening Chris develops an unbearable lust for her and she becomes fond of him.

The novel is set in London with many references to Cold War Yugoslavia. I didn't learn that much about the country reading this book apart from getting a sense of the simmering tensions between different ethnic groups, the precursor to the more recent war. Much of the book actually deals with Roza's sexual awakening and is somewhat coarse and shocking. A few hints are dropped that Roza's stories might be a fabrication but they are compelling to the reader as much as they are to Chris. The book ends with us being none the wiser as to the motives of Roza in her developing relationship with Chris and whether or not she has been telling the truth.

Chris is a very weak character. He contributes little to the story and has lived a dull, predictable life. His greatest weakness is that he seems to take no responsibilty for himself. He seems to have no respect for his wife as an individual, referring to her as the 'Great White Loaf'. His wife has obviously given up trying but it takes two to make a marriage work. Chris feels taken for granted but it doesn't occur to him that his wife might feel the same. Presumably somebody is cleaning their home, shopping for food, ironing his shirts and cooking his meals, not to mention raising a teenage daughter - never the easiest job - and yet he describes her as lazy. At the end of the book Chris shows his true colours - he blames the alcohol for his unforgiveable behaviour towards Roza but I think that it's typical of him.

In the end this book doesn't seem to achieve an awful lot. I've heard that the character of the Bob Dylan Upstairs is based on de Bernieres himself. Perhaps this is the book he has always wanted to write. Unfortunately it is not the book I have always wanted to read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Intrusive Narrator, 16 Sept. 2013
This review is from: A Partisan's Daughter (Paperback)
The construct of this novel is unusual; the book is about Roza with her story being narrated by Chris, as it is told to him, and by Roza herself - they alternate chapters (mostly). The context is interesting - pre-breakup Yugoslavia and London in the 1970s - as is Roza's character, a strong woman who continually makes bad choices as her decision making seems somewhat erratic.

What lets the novel down is the unlikely premise that a young and attractive woman would want to spend evening after evening pouring out her stories to a middle aged man who is so completely out of touch with contemporary youth. He seems to be in the position where his wife is uninterested in him (but not to the extent where she might want to quit) and he is prepared to listen to the stories and give nothing in exchange. His love for her (based on a glimpse at the Archway interchange) seems unrequited so the tease is whether Roza changes her mind - but no, she makes another random decision...All a bit unlikely.

So Chris is not really in the plot - it's just a stream of story telling, some of which is gripping, some less so. The plot is just Roza's life but there is no denouement at the end. The narrative devices to tell Roza's stories just seem clumsy and prevent the plot moving anywhere.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fragile and Appealing, 25 April 2009
By 
Mrs. K. A. Wheatley "katywheatley" (Leicester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Partisan's Daughter (Paperback)
Despite a slight shift in geographical location this book seems to follow on from de Berniere's previous novel 'Birds Without Wings', albeit moving forward in time. There are similar themes of displacement and the idea of boundaries both ideological and geographical,the burden of exile from one's home and self and the bigger themes of love and loss.

This book is a kind of 1001 Nights for the modern reader. Roza is the partisan's daughter in self imposed exile from Tito's Yugoslavia, she sits in her bedsit in Archway, telling tales of her life to the middle aged, lonely man who tried to pick her up thinking she was a prostitute.

It is never clear whether Roza's stories are true or false, or whether that even matters in the grand scheme of things. It is her fragile relationship with Chris that navigates its way through the twists and turns of her fables and his desire that makes the book work so well. It is such a fragile structure that one false move could tear everything to pieces and we are left guessing as to the outcome right to the very end.

This is a moving tale of love and loss, and although not my favourite of his works, is still beautifully rendered.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Return to Form, 29 July 2009
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This review is from: A Partisan's Daughter (Hardcover)
I've always been a fan of Louis de Bernieres and was sad when the underwhelming film of Captain Corelli's Mandolin detracted from the impact of the original novel. He set the bar very high with that book, so that Birds without Wings suffered a little by comparison, I thought. I was delighted by Partisan's Daughter though: it's quirky, perceptive and clever. He's very good at sentiment - it brings a tear to the eye - and its very funny too: he's so good at anatomising the ghastly circular traps that life throws at us. The structure's effectively simple, just two contrasting narrative voices in this one, and for anyone who grew up through the seventies and eighties the historical and musical references are really effective. I read it at one sitting.
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4.0 out of 5 stars 100 years of solitude split between 1970s North London and 1950s / 1960s Yugoslavia, 7 Mar. 2013
By 
AK (London) - See all my reviews
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The book is a very interesting combination of magical realism a la Gabriel Garcia Marquez (as in One Hundred Years of Solitude), the Balkans, and 1970s Britain. Chris, a middle aged traveling salesman on a completely unlikely whim decides to kerb crawl and approach a likely looking 'lady'. She - Roza - in turn turns out not to be what he expected and instead of a quick satisfaction in the Allegro, she takes him on a long journey of storytelling - a 1001 nights of post WW2 Yugoslavia, with some 1970s Britain thrown in, which completely captivates him, and leaves her far from cold as well.

The story is told as a sequence of alternate narrations - from Chris' and Roza's perspectives - slowly peacing together her former life from being a daughter of a successful and committed partisan in Serbia, via her student days in Zagreb, and her eventual arrival in the UK (with some darker elements), and his renewed hopes that life in his 40s, which he feared was definitely cured of excitement and value, could still somehow be salvaged.

Whether the stories make sense or are even truthful each reader will need to decide for themselves - there are certainly 'magical' elements, which could be construed as Roza simply experimenting with Chris. In the same vein, some of the timekeeping is fuzzy at best and cannot be taken at face value - something that may upset the odd reader but is actually quite in keeping with both her character, and the lacking importance Chris (from whose perspective the story is told decades later) would attach to the points in question.

While far from consistently happy as a story, de Bernieres manages to draw the reader in successfully. While I have not yet read any of his other books (including the famous Captain Corelli's Mandolin) and consequently cannot tell how it compares, it is an interesting book I can recommend to people interested in human relationships, the former Yugoslavia (in its coverage of the country and some of the problems it very much reminds me of Underground [DVD]), and a good, page turning read.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A slow burner, 28 May 2012
This review is from: A Partisan's Daughter (Paperback)
I read this book over a number of months which may partly account for my description of it as a slow burner, but also possibly because the initial chapters didnt prove so gripping as to make it unputdownable. Equally possibly having being spoiled by De Bernieres' previous offerings of Captain Corellis Mandolin and his Central/South American Trilogy, all of which packed a powerhouse emotional punch and gripped one from the outset, this possibly has more in common with Birds without Wings.
The sometimes plodding nature of it is also due in part to its format, essential a series of exchanged stories by the two central characters, Roza, the free spirited but emotionally scarred Serbian Partisans Daughter of the title and Chris, the unhappily married, middle aged, conservative, medical sales rep. It is also largely set in the drab dismal London of the 1970's and only really flickers to life when it periodically escapes that setting through the recollections of Roza about her own life and that of her father. In the meantime we have in Chris, a somewhat tragic pathetic figure, growing increasingly obsessed with Roza in tandem with his awarness of the insignificance of his own ordinary life in comparison.

In the end however, the climax rises to a shattering creshendo in the the last few pages, which makes the chapters that proceed it all the more significant and compelled me to re read the initial pages that had become a distant memory. In it De Bernier also returns to a similar device to that adopted in Captain Corelli, that of an elders reminicances except in this, unlike CCM, there is no happy endings, only regret and sorrow for a singular devastating event. All in all, worth the perseverance for the finale which gives an increased appreciation for what has come before it.
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A Partisan's Daughter
A Partisan's Daughter by Louis de Bernieres (Paperback - 29 Jan. 2009)
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