The Road Home – Rose Tremain

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Winner of the Orange Prize 2008





The Road Home tells the story of Lev, a migrant worker from Eastern Europe, travelling to England in the hope of finding enough money to support his mother and daughter, back in his home country. Still grieving from the death of his wife, he tries to build a new life for himself in a country where he doesn’t know anyone, and struggles to understand many of the English customs.

The detailed observations of London made me see my own country in a new light. Some of the things that I see every day were described so vividly that I saw them through new eyes, those of a migrant worker coming to the UK for the first time, and what I saw was both unsettling and true.

The writing style was reminiscent of A Fine Balance, which is very high praise from me, as Rohinton Mistry’s book is currently my favourite of all time. I loved the detail, and the emotion behind the words.

I’m not sure how realistic many of Lev’s experiences were; opportunities continually seemed to land in front of him, and I’m sure life for a real migrant worker would actually have been much tougher, especially in the first few weeks.

I was a little disappointed with the ending. It was so neat that it was as if the final chapter had been written first, and then everything else fanned out backwards from this point, rather than a natural progression from beginning to end. It was also a bit predictable from about the halfway point, but I’m willing to forgive these few niggles, as this really is a great book. It is packed with emotion, and enforces the message that family and friendships are more important that anything else in the world.

This book isn’t for everyone, as it is slow in places, contains a lot of observational passages, and the number of stereotypes will make some people cringe. I loved it, despite it’s flaws. It is a worthy winner of the Orange prize, and I recommend it to all lovers of well written fiction.

This is the first book by Rose Tremain that I have read. I’m really looking forward to reading all her others.

Have you read any books by Rose Tremain? If so, which was your favourite?

Do you think it deserved to win the Orange prize last year? Or was one of the other short listed books better?

I’d love to hear your opinions!

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  1. Karen says:

    I have been tempted to read this one so many times but then something always stops me – I just have this niggling feeling that the book won’t be for me. Hearing you compare it favourably with A Fine Balance makes me want to pick it up though.

  2. Sandy says:

    I have no experience with this author at all. But a four star from you is high praise, and will add it to my list!

  3. Diane says:

    I really enjoyed reading your review. I need to read something by this author.

  4. Wendy says:

    Jackie: I’m glad to see you loved this book as I did. I’ve read the following by Rose Tremain: The Colour, The Road Home AND Music and Silence. I loved them all, but The Colour and The Road Home edged out Music and Silence by a tad.

  5. I read Restoration several years ago and thought it was an intelligent and very enjoyable read. I remember liking the sense of period Tremaine conveyed so well and the gentle humour at the protagonist’s expense.
    I also have Music and Silence on my shelf, but have not got round to reading it.

  6. Jackie says:

    Karen – The Road Home reminded me of A Fine Balance initially – the poor travelling to a new place to find work, not knowing what they’d find when they got there. The writing styles were very similar too – especially in pace and the descriptions. A Fine Balance is way ahead of The Road Home in terms of plot though. A Fine Balance contained so many layers, and the plot revolved around a greater array of interesting characters. The Road Home was a bit predictable for me, but it was still a great book, and I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on it.

  7. Jackie says:

    Sandy – Yes, four stars is high praise from me!! I’m having a run of excellent books at the moment. I’ve just started Outlander – I can see that it could easily make 5 stars – it is amazing!

  8. Jackie says:

    Diane – Yes, she’s clearly a very skilled author. I’m looking forward to reading her other books now.

    Wendy – That is interesting – I’ve read a few reviews saying that The Road Home was one of the weakest of her books. I trust your book taste though, so perhaps I’ll read The Colour next!

    Anna – It’s great that Rose Tremain can convey a sense of the period. She seemed to portray the thoughts of an immigrant realistically in this book. I am so impressed with her versatility. I think she will become one of my ‘must read’ authors!

  9. Beth F says:

    I haven’t read this one — Your high opinion means a lot, so I’ll have to look into it.

  10. Wendy says:

    Well I’m no expert on Tremain’s writing – but I wouldn’t classify The Road Home as her weakest (then again, everyone’s taste in literature is a little bit different). I think you’d like The Colour – it is historical fiction, but is very focused on the characters.

  11. Jackie says:

    Wendy – OK, I’ll try to find a copy of The Colour first. It does sound like my sort of thing – I love character based novels!

  12. Karen says:

    I read The Colour a number of years ago and thought it was excellent. The Road Home is a very different type of story but I thought this was excellent too. I love Rose Tremain’s writing, her observations of the surroundings, how she tunes into her characters emotions, it all hits the mark for me. I did not worry too much about how realistic Lev’s experiences were, I thought they were feasible and that was good enough. Out of the thousands of migrant workers coming to the UK there must be many thousands of different experiences – some similar and some better and others much worse, feasible is the best a writer can do I think.

    I have The Way I Found Her and also Music and Silence on my shelf waiting to be read – so many books and not enough time!


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