About the Book
Lev is on his way from Eastern Europe to Britain, seeking work. Behind him loom the figures of his dead wife, his beloved young daughter and his outrageous friend Rudi who – dreaming of the wealthy West – lives largely for his battered Chevrolet. Ahead of Lev lies the deep strangeness of the British: their hostile streets, their clannish pubs, their obsession with celebrity. London holds out the alluring possibility of friendship, sex, money and a new career and, if Lev is lucky, a new sense of belonging...
What Rose Tremain thinks about World Book Night
"Lev, the protagonist of THE ROAD HOME, (my novel chosen to join the list of World Book Night titles), has read very few books in his arduous life as a sawmill worker in eastern Europe. When he comes to England, he’s given a copy of Hamlet by his friend Lydia, whose pedagogical instincts dictate that she work to ‘improve’ his mind. Hamlet is of course way too difficult for a man who has difficulty distinguishing ‘to be or not to be’ from ‘B & B’, but he struggles on with it and eventually finds some affinity with the anguished prince of Denmark. The reading plays a part in opening up and transforming Lev’s life. And this we know from voices around the world: books can transform lives. So let’s hope World Book Night will act as a kind of benign Ponzi scheme for the mighty word."
What we think
“Tremain’s Orange Prize winning novel explores the immigrant journey from Eastern Europe to London and what it is that home really means. A masterpiece of identity and modern life, exquisitely rendered by a writer at their absolute best."
The Road Home by Rose Tremain
Almost everything about this book is unexpected.
Very simply it is a book about the immigrant experience to the UK. But to think of it as just that would be like saying that Pride and Prejudice is simply a love story or To Kill a Mockingbird merely about race relations. It is the way it takes the idea of a book about the immigrant experience in the UK and makes it universal, about life's journey, how we go from lost to found and how we find our way home, that makes this book so incredible.
Lev is an economic migrant in his 40s from an unspecified Eastern European country. He is recently widowed and has lost his job and he leaves behind his mother looking after his 5 year old daughter in the hope of making his fortune. He gets the very long coach over with certain expectations about life in the UK that are obviously shattered on arrival. Indeed modern life in the UK gets quite a skewering and there is cruel and hilarious satire in its depictions of how we live now as Lev's journey takes him from nights on the streets to menial kitchen work to asparagus picking. In fact the book never stops being a journey, both literal as Lev's transitory experience unfurls and metaphorical in his personal journey from lost to found. But it is the people Lev encounters on this journey that make this book and his life so rich. They are manifold and varied but all are imbued with such humanity that they almost walk from the page.
One could argue that Lev's story is impossible, that though it is always precarious and often bleak, he is given too much of the kindness of strangers and friends, that his story isn't plausible or, God forbid, realistic, that it simply doesn't happen like this in real life. Perhaps not. But it certainly could. I've never believed it the novelist's role to paint life realistically, I can read the newspaper to know what we are told is 'real'. From a novel I want to feel like I've travelled on a great journey with the characters, that I've learnt and grown with them and my empathy has been stretched. There is an exquisite joy in the unexpectedness of what happens to Lev and it is a bittersweet, brave and of course surprising end that we are given, full of hope.
It's common for people to want to read seasonal or topical books and I don't think there's actually any book more appropriate to read at Christmas than this. Several Christmases in Lev's life do in fact feature but this isn't the reason to read it now, it's that hope, the spirit, that elusive thing that we all look for at this time of year which fills this book. Generosity. It is a very generous book, satisfying, eye-opening and not in the least what you expect it to be.
Julia Kingsford, World Book Night Chief Executive
More books by Rose Tremain...
Music & Silence
The Way I Found Her
The Swimming Pool Season
Rose Tremain’s bestselling novels have been published in thirty countries and have won many awards, including the Orange Prize (The Road Home), the Whitbread Novel of the Year (Music & Silence), the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Prix Femina Étranger (Sacred Country). Restoration was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1989 and made into a film in 1995. Her short story, ‘Moth’, was also filmed (as the award-winning Ricky) by François Ozon in 2009. Her novel Trespass, was a Richard and Judy Bookclub Choice in 2011 and her most recent novel Merivel – the sequel to Restoration – has just been published to wide acclaim. Rose Tremain was made a CBE in 2007. She lives in Norfolk and London with the biographer, Richard Holmes.