Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Partisan’s Daughter-Louis De Bernieres

A Partisan’s Daughter
Louis De Bernieres
Knopf, Oct 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 9780307268877

In the late 1970s in wintry London, fortyish salesman Chris detests his life; he loathes his job and hates his marriage; though widower status gives him some hope to get past the despair of being with the “Great White Loaf” late wife. Discontented with his lot he keeps asking himself is that all there is?

When he spots Yugoslavian expatriate Roza walking, he assumes she is a hooker. He bungles his efforts to hire her services. She corrects his misconception and they begin to talk. He drives her home and she invites him in her flat for coffee. A friendship forms that he believes is the underpinning of a romance and she assumes is platonic. She explains she came from her homeland seeking a break but so far has found only hardship that has her considering a return to her homeland where her father is a die hard Tito backer.

This is an extremely complex relationship drama. The dark gloominess of both protagonists makes this a difficult novel to read as the focus is actually on opportunity costs, especially those not chosen. Roza is the more interesting star as her tale is sensationally erotic over the top and at times ugly, but also feels hyperbolic symbolizing the plight of minorities everywhere (especially Iron Curtain Europe during the Brezhnev Era). Chris is the more realistic characterization of the western middle aged normal who wonders why life is depressing so finds excitement in his companion’s tales. Not for everyone, as at times overly dramatic and extremely reflective including the action scenes, A PARTISAN’S DAUGHTER is a deep look at the late 1970s.

Harriet Klausner

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