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420 of 435 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another fine book from a true original
Rose Tremain can, it seems, do just about anything. Each one of her books is utterly different from the last, each creates a detailed and authentic world for her characters and their quests.

In The Road Home, Tremain tells the story of Lev, an Eastern European migrant worker who has left his village and travelled to England so that he can finance a better life...
Published on 22 July 2007 by Graeme H

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some memorable bits amid much unoriginality
I found this story engaging initially as we see Lev, an unemployed 42-year-old widowed father, leave his economically dying village in Eastern Europe and travel to London in hopes of finding work as a migrant labourer, only to suffer loneliness and a sense of isolation. But then as his life turns for the better the story falls down badly and one feels very much as if...
Published on 14 Jun 2010 by Wobbly Wellies


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420 of 435 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another fine book from a true original, 22 July 2007
By 
Graeme H (Sydney, Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Road Home (Paperback)
Rose Tremain can, it seems, do just about anything. Each one of her books is utterly different from the last, each creates a detailed and authentic world for her characters and their quests.

In The Road Home, Tremain tells the story of Lev, an Eastern European migrant worker who has left his village and travelled to England so that he can finance a better life for his mother and daugther. He takes with him his grief for his dead wife. There is an almost fairytale-like quality to Lev's chance encounters and where they lead him, although, that said, they also feel natural and possible; Tremain has always been good on the essential randomness of experience.

Lev's London is awash with money, celebrity and complacency - an ugly picture of the way we live now - but there is nothing polemical about the book. The world Tremain creates feels real, and she allows her characters to negotiate it, and make their compromises with it, in a way that is both convincing and very poignant. There is also a rich vein of humour that runs through the book, much of which comes from the stories about and conversations with Lev's friend Rudi, who has stayed back in the village.

The 1983 Granta list of best young British novelists famously includes: McEwan, Rushdie, Pat Barker, Amis, Graham Swift. Tremain was among this group but in my view remains a little underrated. Both Music & Silence and Restoration have found critical acclaim and broad readerships, but The Colour - a fine, fine book - did less well, and The Way I Found Her is a book far less well known than it should be. Almost alone amongst that stellar group of 1983, she hasn't yet put a foot wrong.
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286 of 299 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb new novel from Rose Tremain, 11 Jun 2007
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This review is from: The Road Home (Paperback)
I have always admired the award-winning author Rose Tremain, but her new novel THE ROAD HOME is the one that has given me the most pleasure. The tale of Lev, a middle aged Polish migrant worker, who comes to London after losing both his job and his wife, is both moving and funny. It's a marvellous take on modern Britain where foreign workers on scant wages toil away in the kitchens of posh restaurants in London and asparagus fields in Norfolk, whilst at the other end of the scale celebrity culture rules. Lev is a good man and a heroic hard worker. As he struggles to earn enough money to send home to his mother who looks after his little girl, he is helped by unexpected acts of kindness from a cast of diverse and entirely uncliched characters. Beautifully written, THE ROAD HOME is an uplifting read and highly recommended.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ok it's a fairy tale but a life affirming one, 30 Sep 2008
By 
Mrs. Katharine Kirby "Kate" (HELSTON, Cornwall United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: The Road Home (Paperback)
In language serious, studied, courtly and old-fashioned RT takes us straight into the mind of our melancholy hero Lev - not Olev - cleverly written, carefully researched and up to the minute subject.
Through a haze of cigarettes, the smoking of each one has to be respectfully described, swigs of his darling vodka lisch, all vital to him despite the poverty of his circumstances. Christy and Rudi also sharing his crutches of nicotine and alcohol until they learn that they live more happily without them..

Auror, Glic, Yarbyl, Baryn, Jor are all unrecognised as actual place names so Lev comes from an unknown to us Eastern European country, of grey trade and grey money, arriving by bus and ferry to London. Journeying with the tidy figure of Lydia beside him.
Threading through the story the memory of Marina his lost loved wife, who was a strong mother, daughter in law, friend and colleague. Looking at London and Londoners through the eyes of a new comer with only his language structure to describe it. "Sucking on bottles like anxious babies"..

A clear and effective narrative - Rudi's voice is always in Lev's head, a powerful influence on him. Although later Lev overtakes Rudi and turns his life around for him. The homespun wisdom of Lev's family pushing through his thoughts. Homesickness constantly threatening to overwhelm him. Thoughts of Rudi and his Tschevi (almost a person) Lev's innocence, naivety and simplicity is appealing. Rudi's character is attractive and impressive. When he eventually becomes "The Face Of The Place' all seems right with the world.

Ina, the grim and difficult mother/grandmother/widow whose God is asleep never reacts quite as we'd hope and is like a belligerent donkey who will not be led. I felt she was an excellently drawn person, quite believable.

The themes of food and diet running through are interesting and touching. This chocolate `reminds me of sleep' says Ina grudgingly at the end in the restaurant at no. 43 Podorsky Street. Food horizons opening up with the experience of GKAshe, I remember the same when I worked in restaurant kitchens. Detailed descriptions of meals all so different, from hardboiled eggs, greasy grey goat meat kebabs onward all affected Lev and awoke his senses. Although I am amazed that Lev's taste buds actually worked after so much abuse from the tobacco and spirits. In fact Lev falls in love with food and cooking. Even in the uninspiring atmosphere of the nursing home kitchen. Food becomes his life even after the forty two years of not thinking about it. The kitchen suppers at GKAshe have a comforting reassuring feel, the crostini so delicious you can almost smell it.

As a poignant thoughtful touch RT includes characters from her other stories at least I recognised Ruby Constad from Letters to Sister Benedicta.

Truly felicitous meetings unfold through Lev's progress from his doomed home. His path is smoothed in a fairy tale way mostly by kind ladies and people who are pleased to repay the kindness of others to them. Lydia, Sulima at the first B+B, Ahmed the kebab man, hospitable Tom and Larissa (yoga aficionado). Christy Slane is far deeper and more of a character than he first appears and like all pantomime stories, his ends happily thankfully. Sophie, Sam the mad hatter, Vitas, the Ming's.

Throughout the tale we always understand what is being said to Lev but because of his limited English he only gets part of the conversations along the way especially with GKAshe (Gordon Ramsey) whose kitchen is run like an orchestra or an operating theatre. Christy talking away, his ex wife,snapping, Sophie the lover. It all gives the reader another view of our own language.

Through all of Lev's vast range of experiences you feel you are going through them al with him, they are so warmly and inclusively written. When he mucks things up in his only human way you cringe along with him and admire him for rising again to the next challenges.

So much of the story shows us how other people's voices, opinions and advice constantly ring in our heads - if we choose to let them. Also that the kindness of strangers really can turn your life around.
Lovely stuff!
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58 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best novels I've read this year, 21 July 2008
By 
Amicie (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Road Home (Paperback)
I enjoyed this novel so much that when I was three quarters of the way through I went back to the beginning and started again! Tremain is an excellent writer. Her prose is full of colourful images and she has an eye for the quirky, the absurd, which makes for an entertaining read. In this tale the line between tragedy and comedy is finely walked. Lev is a beguiling hero - in many ways brave and admirable, but also flawed. His story is sad, sometimes brutal, but always handled with compassion. This novel could easily be read as a treatise on the plight of the immigrant worker - but it is more complex than that. Ultimately it is about the irrepressiblity of the human spirit and I loved it.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some memorable bits amid much unoriginality, 14 Jun 2010
This review is from: The Road Home (Paperback)
I found this story engaging initially as we see Lev, an unemployed 42-year-old widowed father, leave his economically dying village in Eastern Europe and travel to London in hopes of finding work as a migrant labourer, only to suffer loneliness and a sense of isolation. But then as his life turns for the better the story falls down badly and one feels very much as if Tremain lost her way while writing it, then resorted to a predictably feeble formula of ups and downs in Lev's fortunes to carry her through.

A novel needn't plumb the depths of the human psyche to make good reading, but this one disappointed me for how one-dimensional the people around Lev seemed. Even the two he got closest to in his new life, Christy the drunken Irishman and Sophie the sous-chef nymphette, felt like timeworn caricatures rather than real people, along with his vodka-swigging friend Rudi back home. Lev's only interesting relationship was with Lydia. Exclude her, and he had no meaningful conversations with anyone in the entire story. I'm aware that poverty still exists in parts of rural Eastern Europe, but its portrayal here struck me as pure invention on the author's part.

Though this novel failed to reach any heights or depths in either content or prose, and the good fortune and opportunities that suddenly befell Lev were improbable, I did feel for him and enjoyed moments of his journey.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One to read and keep to read again, 9 Jan 2008
By 
Martin A. Chambers (U.K.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Road Home (Paperback)
I've never read any Rose Tremain books previously, but if generally she writes as well as she does in "The Road Home" I'd better start exploring her back catalogue. This is a rites of passage novel concerning Lev an eastern European migrant worker in Britain. It is somewhat depressing to note that anyone who was at all helpful to this near destitute man were themselves immigrants. It's the type of book you have to put down every second chapter or so, because you can see what is about to happen and you want to delay the tragic consequences as long as possible. I don't quite understand what makes a "great" book, but it seems churlish to offer just a "very good" in respect of The Road home, so providing you don't hold me too closely to account, I think I might just award it "great book" status. Very highly recommended!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keep a hankie handy, 6 Jun 2009
By 
Ralph Blumenau (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Road Home (Paperback)
This is a touching and charming novel about Lev from an unnamed Eastern European country in the EU. He is 42, has recently lost his much loved wife Marina and then lost his job when the sawmill in which he had been working closed down. With a wrench he has left his five-year old daughter Maya with his mother Ina, and has set off from his village to find work in London, with a view, of course, of earning enough to send back to Ina and eventually to take `the road home' himself. He has at first very little English, and, unlike his friend Rudi back at home, he is a dreamy and not very obstacle-conquering person. During all the things that happen to him in England, his mind goes back to memories of the life and the people he has left behind, and every now and again he spends some of his hard-earned money on mobile phone-calls to Rudi, whose early ebullience ebbs away in the face of problems besetting him and the village. So the book is a series of evocative vignettes of English and of East European life; and these show a fabulous inventiveness (or perhaps the weaving together of a great range of Rose Tremain's memories or experiences), but each of them rings true.

And what happens to him in London? Anything from kindness through indifference to hostility. But actually most of the people he is in contact with are friendly. He finds work as a washer-up in a posh restaurant. The work is tiring and the owner is exacting, but also appreciative of his workers when they achieve the fiercely high standards he demands: this isn't exactly the mean and unscrupulous exploitation described in Marina Lewycka's `Two Caravans' (see my review - as in that novel there is also in this one a section on immigrants of different nationalities working on a farm). The atmosphere of this book is much kindlier. Lev learns much from his work in the restaurant; and food and cooking will play an enormous role in the book - nourishing in many more senses of the word than one.

All sorts of people befriend Lev: a compatriot who wants to take him to an Elgar concert; his unhappy Irish landlord whose wife and child have left him; a playwright who tries to explain `transgressive theatre' to him; a young woman who makes `ironic' hats for, among others, the princesses Beatrice and Eugenie - all these talk to Lev, making no concessions to his still limited vocabulary, using slang expressions or words which he only partially understands, so that he feels clumsy, inadequate, angry - and lonely. Some women seem to be fond of him, but, still grieving for Marina, for some months he stiffly resists their advances.

Then comes a chapter significantly entitled `Why Shouldn't a Man Choose Happiness?" and the ones that follow are very moving.

We are half way through the book, and then everything shifts again, and it would be a spoiler if I described how. Suffice it to say that after the warmth of encountering "genuine" people, he comes up against a smart set who acclaim transgressiveness, and a particular example of it, in a way that is deeply shocking to him, and that plunges him back with a vengeance into his sense of alienation, with heartbreaking consequences.

But he recovers, and he gives himself a mission of what he hopes to do for his neighbourhood when he returns home....

I would give this book more than five stars if that were possible. I don't think I have ever read a book which manages to portray good people as convincingly and movingly as this one does. And if you react to it as I did, keep a hankie handy.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A mirror through which to view a 'Green and pleasant land'., 14 Sep 2008
By 
Paul Meakin (Shropshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Road Home (Paperback)
I enjoyed this book, which isn't surprising considering it was written by Rose Tremain. As usual the prose, construction, attention to detail, plot progression and pace were brilliant: I'm certain Rose Tremain could write a novel about a matchbox and it would be riveting and informative.
For me, Lev, the central character is in essence a mirror that Tremain holds up for us to see the England we'd maybe rather ignore or forget: the pretentious garbage of celebrity and affluence; the coldness and fickle allegiances of a morally bankrupt society; the pockets of loneliness and sadness that exist within families and institutions.
There are aspects of the book that didn't work for me. I felt Lev's character was a little one-dimensional and slightly underdeveloped. His outbursts of temper seemed incongruous and, somewhat irritatingly, his mastery of English seemed to be achieved at a phenomenal rate. I felt the ending was a little brief, not really tying together or enhancing what went before. However his work ethic, determination and pragmatism were an accurate reflection of the Eastern European workers I know.
Some of the characters in the story are memorable: the scarred, sensitive and lonely Christy; the life force that is Rudi; the driven GK Ashe. Others were less believable or bordered on parody: the farmer Midge was irritatingly underdeveloped and his cod rural speech and mannerisms annoying; I didn't find Sophie believable, a shame given her central role.
But, the negatives above can't detract from the overall quality of the book. I was held throughout Lev's odyssey and as I neared the end I actually longed for it all to turn out well for him. I finished with a feeling that my latent dislike of much of what is modern England had flowered into something approaching full blown disgust.
This book reminded me of the famous lines from Burns:

'Oh wad some power the Giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!'
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written but predictable tale, 2 Sep 2008
By 
Norman Housley (Leicester United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Road Home (Paperback)
Fascinating to read so many rave reviews. I read this on a very long train journey and if I hadn't been stuck there would probably have abandoned it. Rose Tremain has a wonderful prose style and she organizes her plots really well with lots of development, but the novel didn't grip me at all. Characters were boring, situations obvious (mobile phone going off during concert, stereotypical rich/poor London, even more stereotypical run-down anonymous ex-eastern bloc country etc), the ending warm & cosy. Did nobody else find Lev deeply tedious? She is very good at doing her homework, so the top-class restaurant, police treatment of migrants, retirement home, and lots of other stuff were thoroughly credible. But I felt disappointed; maybe I'm just expecting too much.
Norman Housley
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92 of 102 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent read, 21 July 2007
By 
Terry Carr (Merseyside, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Road Home (Paperback)
This is the first (but not the last) novel I've read by Rose Tremain. I bought it after reading excellent reviews in a newspaper supplement and wasn't disappointed. The main theme is hugely topical and provides a perceptive and thought-provoking insight into the lives of immigrant east-european workers currently arriving in the UK in search of work. All the characters in the novel are believable and it is easy to empathise with them, especially Lev the protagonist who is realistically drawn. Lev's story is probably not exceptional, but nontheless it is very interesting, humorous and moving: it moved me to tears and laughter in equal parts. I thoroughly enjoyed the journey which had me hooked from the opening page. Highly recommended - an easy but wonderful read.
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The Road Home
The Road Home by Rose Tremain (Hardcover - 2007)
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