The Road Home Rose Tremain

Rose Tremain… mmmm is this pseudonym for hedonistic romance I asked myself. I decided to read on after all, this novel was short listed for the Orange Broadband Prize.

This book is a compelling read and I did enjoy it! On the surface there is a lot to be admired, the polemic rifts unfold with ease creating an interesting visual dialogue, which kept me thumbing through the pages. But I found and this is a big but there were certain things that started to grate on my literary conscious. Tremain takes every opportunity to mock and criticize London Brit milieu with her backhanded slaps and weak comparisons. She subversively attacks Art, Literature, Theatre, and Cuisine. Her characters seem to be a parody for well-known icons such as GK Ashe/Gordon Ramsy, Howie Preece/ Damien Hirst and although this is amusing it’s way to obvious.

The story deals with the experience of immigrant workers from some indefinable Eastern European country arriving in Britain to seek work and a new life.

The plot, narrative, characterization, and language trouble me. Although this book is written in the third person with Lev as the main protagonist his character does not quite work in the role as a factory worker, from poor background; he is way to measured and philosophical. The other characters although sensitive and often enchanting are just to nice, to idealized and this is ok, but I am not wholly convinced it works or does it?

I can understand she is trying to break down stereotypes but frankly it comes across as patronsing. Would Lev’s character have been more believable if he had been cast as a woman his conversations with Christy border on the feminine, girl talk! Discussing love and children how many men do you know take up this kind of conversation!!

Considering Tremain is a practiced writer the language throughout her book is at times blousy, bland and lazy Pg 21 ‘Planes kept passing overhead, embroidering the sky with garlands of vapour.’! Feminine to the core! On Pg 215 she uses He at least four times to start a sentence ‘He began hitting his head.’ ‘He understood the words.’ ‘He had no idea,’ and so on and so on.

The worst literary crime Tremain commits is the introduction and use of Hamlet is this a pop at the literary canon? Lev presumably speaks and reads only a little English yet he reads this with no problem not that I am a fan of Shakespeare after all certain quarters thought he wrote for the masses and the illiterate so maybe this is the connection Tremain wants us to make!

The dialogue of the book does unfold with ease but it feels hurried in parts and the plot jumps about. Pg242-243 His relationship ends with Sophie the next thing we know he is in Suffolk picking veg; at this point we are half way through the book I would suggest Tremain is trying to move the narrative on to quickly and as a result the attention to detail starts to dissipate Pg 337 The novel take a huge leap again when Lev returns home.

The narrative is clumpy as events come and go I would suggest his ending with Sophie was tantamount to rape yet the author adds no recourse for this or elaborates it is left unresolved. The mugging another example or is this just a filler? The comparisons throughout the book lead us to believe that these incidents never occur in Eastern Europe Tremain would have us think Lev originated from a folk singing, dancing tableau where everyone loves their neighbour and political correctness is abound. Then we have the homosexual scene, which seems completely out of character and again this is left unresolved what was Tremain trying to do here pay lip service to political hot potatoes?

I find it unrealistic that someone in Lev’s position over a period of a year working two jobs no less could raise the ten thousand pounds to fund his enterprise, a bit unrealistic and not very plausible. This novel is just to dam nice, a good fairytale! I was disappointed by the ending you would think Lev would have been grateful for the dam after all it was his savoir. I suppose I should feel relieved Tramain did not end on a quote from Hamlet.



5 thoughts on “The Road Home Rose Tremain

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed the book although it is quite sobering to see ourselves as others see us! Hope to actually be more present in the group next term.Sheila

  2. I agree it was easy reading,I completed it in 3 days, but felt slightly disappointed that the author didn’t think of a more realistic ending and almost made it too easy for herself when Lev conviniently raised the ten thousand really quickly,although I guess he could have inherited the lot!
    On the whole I quite enjoyed it, especially when Sophie changed and was flattered by the attention of GK Ashe and his money.


  3. I quite enjoyed the book but do agree with some of the criticisms above…unrealistic and romanticiised and some stereotypical characters! i do have respect for the character of Lev,I like his ambition for both himself and his family and his determination to overcome all obstacles.
    The book does give the reader an insight into the problems faced by legal immigrants in this country…homesickness, language barrier, prejudice, lowly paid jobs and insecurity. Through Lev,s eyes , we see the worst of the West…the shallowness of life, obsession with money, wastefulness and the exploitation of foreign workers.This is offset, to a degree, by the kindness of some individuals like the kebab shop owner and Christie.I don,t agree with the comment that Lev and Christie,s relationship is too feminine and unbelievable.James Joyce,s “Dubliners” shows how much nostalgia and sentimentality is an Irish trait. Coupled with a shared background of a lost loved one and living in a different culture makes this friendship plausible.
    The writer spells out the huge differences between West and East and.that with development some things are lost forever…family values, a sense of community and roots in the area of birth, shown by the Auror dam project.
    Even though I agree that the ending is somewhat unrealistic, it does give hope that the human spirit can cope with huge changes and adapt.


  4. I agree with much of what has already been said, I enjoyed the book, I think some of the criticism may depend upon viewing the book as an attempt at an accurate description of reality rather then a description of the migrant’s dream – more of a parable and hence maybe shortcuts and stereotypes are allowable.

    Lev’s short term objectives, along with many migrant workers, are to escape unemployment and to provide for family, but this is only part of the story, people also want to return home triumphant having become a success. In Lev’s case he discovers an ability to cook and develops a belief that he could return home, open a restaurant, support his family and provide work for his friends.

    Lev decides that he can earn enough to send money back for his family and save enough to open his own restaurant back home.

    Only hard work will achieve this, his attempt to shortcut the hard work required to realise his dream ends in disaster when he asks Lydia to lend him the money.

    Relationships with the natives end in disaster, Lev’s relationship with Sophie ends in tears, Christie’s relationship with his wife ends acrimoniously.

    I am not sure Tremain is trying to put down the London Brit milieu – its art, literature etc. His desire to read Shakespeare might be a comment on the belief that none of us can be thought proficient in English until we have memorised an entire Shakespeare play.

    I agree however, that the book skips lots of detail – but maybe that is detail that is not necessary to make the point – yes he raises the money too easily, he survives a punishing schedule but the point is he realises the dream.

    Christie too lands on his feet, albeit in a different way, after a failed marriage with a Brit he too finds happiness with another migrant, gets regular work, stops smoking and even gets rid of his eczema.

    At a personal level I enjoyed the location; I lived in Tufnell Park for 35 years, as far as I know Belisha Road is a fiction but there is certainly a Café Rouge in Highgate.

    Sorry I will miss next week’s class. See you next time.


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