Saturday, August 30, 2008


Linda Grant - Virago - nz$38.99

The author is a prize-winning journalist as well as a novelist and author of non-fiction titles too.

Her latest effort is about an Hungarian Jewish couple, refugees in London who hide from their only daughter, the novel's protagonist, British-born Vivien, the secrets of their former life .
Set in the 70's Vivien is a widow in her twenties and she sets out to find out for herself family background. She does this by tracking down and befriending her father's estranged older brother Sandor. he is or has been a rent racketeer loosely-based on the real life Peter Rachman, Britain's most infamous landlord. Vivien and Sandor meet in a parkby chance but it is obvious that they in fact know each other. Because of her parent's attitude toward Sandos they pretend not to know each other's indentity. She acts as his secretary while he dictates his ife story.

All the way through the clothes the various characters wear play quite an important role, hence the novel's title. The book, an impressive work, is about immigration and racism and hypocrisy very neatly tied into the story of a university educated first generation British woman and her search for her roots. This is not goiung to win the Man Booker Prize though.
Now it is time to tackle The Enchantreess of Florence by Salman Rushdie.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My book group really liked this novel and we all agreed that the title was too flimsy on which to hang such a good story. The implication that the clothes the characters wore somehow reflected their identities or ambitions, was less satisfactory than the story of the two immigrant brothers as seen through the eyes of a daughter/niece. We had a good debate over which brother had led the best life (not taking 'best' as meaning 'good') and we were split I think down the middle - some of us frustrated with the timid father and reluctantly admiring of Sandor grabbing his opportunities - while others thought the father had led by far the better life and that we were only seeing his daughter's view of him which was by nature of being his daughter, a "limited pov"...
It generated a good deal of discussion.