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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Black Madonna of Derby- could have been my family!
As a second-generation Polish immigrant, this book may have been about my family- some of the characters could have been relatives from my own childhood; as were the Polish clubs of provincial 1960's/70's Britain, the Sunday Polish Masses in the local Catholic church and the need to be part of the "host" culture as young, alienated children of traumatized immigrants. The...
Published on 4 Aug. 2009 by P. M. Rybolowicz

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars not quite made it
somehow did not tick the right box but as my parents were Polish that made it more interesting from a historical point of view
Published 23 months ago by krystyna gee


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Black Madonna of Derby- could have been my family!, 4 Aug. 2009
By 
This review is from: The Black Madonna of Derby (Paperback)
As a second-generation Polish immigrant, this book may have been about my family- some of the characters could have been relatives from my own childhood; as were the Polish clubs of provincial 1960's/70's Britain, the Sunday Polish Masses in the local Catholic church and the need to be part of the "host" culture as young, alienated children of traumatized immigrants. The family story this depicts- secret suicides, war, unmentioned and unmentionable love affairs, death, tragedy, displacement and coming to terms with living in a totally alien and ignorant culture, were all elements of my own family history.
This is a very easy book to read, but with a very difficult subject matter- I found it almost impossible to put down- it's quite panaromic in terms of it's setting. Clever twists in the plot link scenes of 1970's Derby, (including that hot summer of 1976), the swinging London of the 1960's, pre-War Polish Aristocratic life, and the post-War bleak Soviet housing estates of Warsaw, together with sympathetic scenes of the beauty of the medieval centre of Krakow. Harowing at times, thought provoking and ultimately life-affirming, for me one of the books of the year.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rare find!, 13 Aug. 2008
By 
Sylvia Worsnop (Atlanta, GA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Black Madonna of Derby (Paperback)
This is a beautifully matter-of-fact story about a family of Polish descent living in England, a seemingly ordinary family with an extraordinary history. In a humorous, gentle and understated way it illustrates the subtle differences that family culture and traditions make. The author brings to life characters you can relate to and yet they are fascinating. The short chapters and the good pace keep you involved and wanting to know more. The truth unravels itself throughout the book and there are surprises! This is a story that would appeal to all readers. I recommend it!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delightful gem of a read!, 22 Feb. 2009
By 
E. Charnley (Derby, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Black Madonna of Derby (Paperback)
The Black Madonna of Derby took me by surprise. Being set in Derby, I started to read a book about the town in which I live, but I could not put this novel down. I became so involved in the lives of these three generations of women with a Polish heritage/culture which - apart from the Polish element - so mirrored my own experiences of growing up in an ever-changing UK.
Written with a gentle humour, the characters spring to life. You can see them in your mind's eye struggling with their own problems.
I could relate their lives to those of my own maternal line, especially as it was set in the ever-changing 60's when young women felt more empowered than their mothers and grandmothers.
It could also be set in today's world, with other cultures being represented who are facing the same generation gap - between the *home country* and *birth country* causing friction within the home.
This is well worth a read, and the author could well turn her hand to a story about The Black Madonna itself, as I am sure she could weave any story around the history of this famous painting.
I await the next offering with anticipation and if that is also set in Derby, it would be a bonus!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful read, 4 Oct. 2008
This review is from: The Black Madonna of Derby (Paperback)
It's a beautifully written story. Historical and
geographical facts are skillfully woven into one family's story in a
way that engaged me and kept me reading till the end. The characters
are compelling and so well sketched - I never lost interest.
> Reading about Babcia I was reminded of my childrens' Ukrainian
Baba, my husband's mother, who lived through so many hardships in
her life. When I knew her - in the late 1960s - she had been living
in Canada for more than fifty years, but she still conversed in
Ukrainian, hardly knew a few words of English. She never forgot her
homeland, which she described to my husband in glowing colours,
despite the fact that she emigrated to escape poverty and
discrimination.
> The book is well worth reading.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great novel, 3 Jan. 2010
This review is from: The Black Madonna of Derby (Paperback)
The Black Madonna of Derby (English version) or `Goodbye Polsko' (Polish version)

The novel describes the vicissitudes of a Polish immigrant family living in Derby and London in the 60's and 70's, as well as those of their closest relations in Poland at the same time. The contrasts of everyday life in capitalist England and communist Poland at that time are vividly described. The characters of all generations are people we feel we have met ourselves; ordinary people with their virtues and defects, all portrayed with humour, affection and sympathy.
The novel frequently takes you back to earlier times when the older members of the family were young in Poland, especially during the tragedy of Nazi occupation.
Once you start reading it is difficult to stop. At times you want to laugh out loud and there are also moments of unbearable sadness.
This is Joanna Czechowska's first novel and I sincerely hope there will be more. There is also a very accurate Polish translation which I read before realising that it was actually written originally in English.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I learnt a lot!, 18 Jan. 2009
By 
D. Fairey (Kent, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Black Madonna of Derby (Paperback)
This book kept me entertained and at the same time it educated me in Polish culture and I enjoyed the scene changes between England and Poland. Information vital for a full understanding was included in a subtle, unobtrusive way. By far it was the characters who stood out due to their sympathetic and humorous portrayal by the author. I would certainly read another novel by this author be it a sequel or a story on a different topic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I liked this a lot..., 23 Oct. 2008
By 
B. M. Ray (Derby, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Black Madonna of Derby (Paperback)
I liked this a lot. Since I grew up in Derby and still live there, I saw a review in the local paper and decided to buy it. The author must be around my own age as I can relate to the incidents she mentions and the destruction and reconstruction of the town. I married someone who was also a newcomer to the country, though not from Poland, and so it had an extra relevance for me. It's well written, not over-intellectual, and is funny and sad in equal measure. As a writer myself with a new book on the stocks, I was really pleased to see an entertaining book about the old home town and I hope it sells very well. I got a bit confused by some of the names, not being a Polish speaker - maybe a mini-glossary would have been helpful, as it was ages before I realised Babcia meant grandmother -but it comes over as a warm and touching story of family life. I'd certainly recommend it. Brenda Ray, Derby.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unputdownable!, 22 Aug. 2008
By 
A. Scutts (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Black Madonna of Derby (Paperback)
Joanna Czechowska has managed to achieve a satisfying balance of page-turning plot with deftly drawn, utterly believable characters, written in a gentle, sometimes ironic style. Essentially a story about a post-war immigrant family living in the Midlands, The Black Madonna of Derby has a great deal to say about issues of integration that are as relevant today as they were then. But this first novel is much, much more than a story of immigrants - it's a beautifully paced family epic, spanning the 1960s and 70s, unveiling buried secrets and weaving separate topics (such as the reality of the Swinging Sixties in London) into the characters' separate stories - and just as you think it may go one way, the author surprises you by taking the tale in different directions. You are left wanting to know more about this family - let's hope a sequel will follow!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Read !!!, 12 Aug. 2008
This review is from: The Black Madonna of Derby (Paperback)
The novel "The Black Madonna of Derby" is written with style. The story has pace and what is important is that the characters have soul, they come to life in the pages of the novel. I read this in one sitting, the pace of the story is that good. Is there a film going to be made of the book ?
An excellent read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and enjoyable, 3 Sept. 2011
By 
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This review is from: The Black Madonna of Derby (Paperback)
An incredibly honest depiction of life as an immigrant family, and an astonishingly accurate insight into Polish family structure. Close to my heart because it reminded me so much of my own family, but accessible to those who don't share that background. If you want to know more about real Poles, not just the stereo-type, this book will go some way to explaining their character and their fierce patriotism.

In brief, Babcia (Grandma in Polish) is living in Derby, England with her daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren. She is confused by the English language, frustrated by the different world she finds herself in, and determined to be the centre of attention.
Wanda, the eldest grandchild, feels stifled by the traditions of her family and is unable to relate to the Polish way of life - she was born in England and wants to be English; as a result she leaves school and heads to London to carve out her own life.
Zosia is the middle grandchild and the apple of Babcia's eye. Fascinated by her Polish heritage, she is beautiful and intelligent and determined to be successful. Worshipped by Babcia and praised by all the adults she meets, the bullying she suffers from her peers is proving difficult to cope with.

There are many other characters in this rich story, (not least the eccentric and rather deranged Princess Maria), but it is mainly the story of these three women who capture the reader's heart. So much happens in this book it is almost impossible to write a synopsis, but it is more the interaction between characters that makes this book what it is, with the actual events serving as an interesting backdrop to facilitate the portrayal of the Polish mindset.
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The Black Madonna of Derby
The Black Madonna of Derby by Joanna Czechowska (Paperback - 1 July 2008)
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