From the acclaimed author of Corelli's Mandolin and Birds Without Wings ("de Berni?res has reached heights that few modern novelists ever attempt" --The Washington Post Book World) comes an intimate new novel, a love story at once raw and sweetly funny, wry and heartbreakingly sad.
He's Chris: bored, lonely, trapped in a loveless, sexless marriage. In his forties, he's a stranger inside the youth culture of London in the late 1970s, a stranger to himself on the night he invites a hooker into his car.
She's Roza: Yugoslavian, recently moved to London, the daughter of one of Tito's partisans. She's in her twenties but has already lived a life filled with danger, misadventure, romance, and tragedy. And although she's not a hooker, when she's propositioned by Chris, she gets into his car anyway.
Over the next months Roza tells Chris the stories of her past. She's a fast-talking, wily Scheherazade, saving her own life by telling it to Chris. And he takes in her tales as if they were oxygen in an otherwise airless world. But is Roza telling the truth? Does Chris hear the stories through the filter of his own need? Does it even matter?
This deeply moving novel of their unlikely love--narrated both in the moment and in recollection, each of their voices deftly realized--is also a brilliantly subtle commentary on storytelling: its seductions and powers, and its ultimately unavoidable dangers.
De Berni�res (Corelli's Mandolin) delivers an oddball love story of two spiritually displaced would-be lovers. During a dreary late 1970s London winter, stolid and discontented Chris is drawn to seedy and mysterious Roza, a Yugoslav �migr�e he initially believes is a prostitute. She isn't (though she claims to have been), and soon the two embark on an awkward friendship (Chris would like to imagine it as a romance) in which Roza spins her life's stories for her nondescript, erstwhile suitor. Roza, whose father supported Tito, moved to London for opportunity but instead found a school of hard knocks, and she's all too happy to dole out the lessons she learned to the slavering Chris. The questions of whether Roza will fall for Chris and whether Chris will leave his wife (he calls her the Great White Loaf) carry the reader along, as the reliability of Chris and Roza, who trade off narration duties, is called into question--sometimes to less than ideal effect. The conclusion is crushing, and Chris's scorching regret burns brightly to the last line. (Oct.)
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October 06, 2008
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