Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Observer review

Vivien Kovaks comes from a family of 'mice-people', Jewish-Hungarian immigrants who arrived in 1938 and are simply grateful to England for giving them refuge. This is a novel about identity and belonging. There is nothing lightweight about its themes and yet it is so artfully constructed that you barely feel you're reading it at all, so fluid and addictive is the plot. But like all the best books, the serious ideas it raises stay with you for a long time afterwards.
. . .

This is a wonderful, tightly written novel that charts one woman's emotional life while weaving in politics, history and morality. It does not come to any easy conclusions: the murderous Sandor is no less of a monster than his silently raging but impotent brother Ervin, who is sleepwalking through life. Ultimately, though, Sandor's defence does not wash; by choosing a path of violence and revenge, he descends to the depths of the fascists he hates.

Grant does not hit you over the head with politics, though. She transports you to another era and into another woman's life so gently and effortlessly that it is not until the end of the book that you realise the points she is making are universal and timeless. This novel is above all a quiet masterclass in the perils of hypocrisy. No man is all good or all bad. And a decent suit can make you overlook a lot.

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2 comments:

Deja Pseu said...

I've just started the book and even after just a chapter and a half, am very drawn in to the characters and excited to see where the story goes. I look forward to having more reading time today.

kisrumpf said...

Probably too late to post a comment here, but I give it a try. I really like your book.

Thanks - from a Hungarian reader of yours