On a council estate in London Bertie’s mother dies; and in a desperate attempt to reclaim the flat he believes to be his he adopts an old Ukranian woman from a hospital to pretend to be his mother. Meanwhile beautiful and idealistic Violet moves in next door while to work at a International Wealth Preservation company, and there’s a plan to take down the estate cherry trees.
This is my first experience of Marina Lewycka, but from my assumptions of her writing it rings true. Realism that highlights, gently mocks and celebrates the bizarre and ridiculous but nevertheless true idiosyncrasies of human life. She manages to tell what are some terribly sad stories, and usually pitiable people, with warmth and kindness that emphasises humanity above all else. I thoroughly enjoyed this book!
Now, I live on a council estate in London. It is truly a bizarre experience; the characters, situations, politics and oddities. And not all hugely savoury: but a part of me truly loves it. I love the people with all their strangenesses, I love the strange things that happen in the stairways, I love the stories I hear, I love being a part of this community. I love how my baby daughter treats everyone exactly the same, and hope that I can emulate her.
And Lewycka obviously feels the same. Here is a very realistic portrayal of the friendships, suspicions, worries, dramas and inner turmoil of a great range of characters. It pulls no punches: characters’ inner lives are shown to be just as repugnant, ugly and distasteful as they are – and yet. You never feel Lewycka is diminishing anyone, rather bringing them to life and light.
This is a book that could have been terribly tragic. For the stories of council estates often have a fair share of tragedy: but here it is humanity that wins the day. In a place where no one is free of prejudice or selfishness, still a goodness wins the day.
The plot is fantastic too. In a sort of Catch-22 way it winds around itself, sorting through it’s oddities and managing to unravel itself nicely at the end.
When reading of the subject matter, I was a little reluctant to read this book. I thought it might be too worthy or too boring; but instead it was charming and funny, interesting and clever. I thoroughly recommend it!
Thanks so much to Netgalley for letting me read this for review, it was a delight!