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Merle

Merle

The Road Home: A Novel - Rose Tremain I feel cheated. I liked Tremain's The Colour, and this book's subject matter sounded interesting: Eastern European immigrant tries to make his way in the still-sometimes-xenophobic Britain. And it started off interestingly, as I'd expected, with Lev's multi-day bus journey to London and his brief experience with homelessness once he gets there. Then after about 75 pages, it starts going downhill, and to my mind it never recovers.

Before I get into what I disliked, the good things about this book: it's decently well-written, it has some intriguing and funny moments, and the character development is at least competent--I did believe in these people.

My biggest problem with The Road Home is its bloat; it's much longer than it needs to be. Relatedly, after Lev's early experiences in England it quickly became boring to me: he finds a job in a fancy restaurant and rents a room from a friendly Irishman and the novel turns into a drawn-out, dull story of modern working-class life, not dealing with immigration-specific issues as much as I'd expected. If a book about a guy having an affair with a much younger woman, listening to his housemate's divorce and child-custody woes, and discovering his love of cooking appeals to you, you'll probably like it better than I did. (Okay, so I generally do hate books about modern life. I find them boring and don't give a shit for the characters. The Language of Flowers and Tell the Wolves I'm Home are the exceptions, not the rule. But still, Lev's life is unusual enough that I thought I would be able to appreciate it much more than I did.)

Compounding this problem is Lev himself. He's believable enough, but like Joseph Blackstone in The Colour, he's rather dull and a bit of a loser (he even has a nearly identical relationship with his widowed mother). Unlike Joseph, he isn't balanced by another, more likeable protagoinst; instead we have to spend over 400 pages in the guy's head. We're evidently supposed to admire him for working hard to support his family, but we're only briefly told about that, and shown a lot of scenes in which he displays the emotional maturity and problem-solving ability of your average 18-year-old boy--and Lev is 42. Then on top of being boring, he becomes violent toward his girlfriend, more than once. At this point I didn't even want him to succeed, which was clearly not the author's intent.

This one is going to come down to taste; the characterization and writing are acceptable, and if you like modern-relationships type stories, you'll probably like it better than I did. But it was a waste for me.