The Road Home by Rose Tremain, 365 pages
book awards: Orange Prize 2008; unread authors; Orange January
Lovely tale of Lev, who arrives in London after a long bus ride from some unknown Eastern European country. For some reason, I assumed it was Poland, but I don't know why I thought that. Lev is leaving his daughter and his mother behind to try and make some money for a better life. It reminded me of all the men who have left the Maritimes to go to Alberta to make the good money. Not only is Lev facing a new language and country, but he is still grieving his late wife, Marina.
It's easy to like Lev, and cheer for him, so that even when he makes bad decisions, we still root for him. It can't be easy to start a new life, and Tremain captures the feelings Lev faced dramatically. At one point, I thought Lev would turn out to be a Walter Mitty sort, lost in his daydreams, but Lev had more focus and eventually, a goal he wanted to achieve so he battled that problem. I loved that Lev worked in a high end restaurant, and you can easily picture Gordon Ramsey of Hell's Kitchen fame as GK Ashe, and imagine Lev's experience in the kitchen.
For all you title drop fans, that moment when you find the title of the book in the prose, this book is a wonderland. Each chapter is titled and then a title drop occurs. Sweet! Lev learns to love, and develops great friends, especially Christy Slane, his Irish roommate who is also trying to move on with his life. Rudy, Lev's friend from the old country is another great character that Lev relies on for support.
Summary: good paced plot, wonderfully developed characters, and real life look at the life of a immigrant in London and the challenges faced by people who try to better their life from the old country.