Excellent depiction of a family group and others leaving Russia and heading for new lives in the 'free' world in the 1970s. Very readable, and I like how the characters are fleshed-out, behaving in the complex ways most humans are prone to. I'll look for more by this author.
The story of a family of Latvian Jews who have left the Soviet Union and are living in Rome temporarily as they await approval to immigrate to the West. Bezmozgis assumes a lot of prior knowledge about this forgotten episode in history. The novel is set in 1978, and during the 1970s, many Jews were trying to leave the Soviet Union for Israel, the United States, Canada and other western nations because of state-sponsored restrictions and persecutions. However, the Soviets were making it difficult for them to leave, further persecuting them for the applying to emigrate, dismissing them from their jobs, trying them on fallacious charges and sending them to the Gulag. The plight of the Soviet Jews became an international movement and no more so than in the United States where American Jews organized and petitioned politicians to put pressure on the Soviet government and allow Jews to leave the USSR. Bezmozgis does not provide this context to his novel. He peppers his story with the names of noted Zionists and other historical figures and events that many readers would not be familiar with. However, that said, this is still an intelligent immigration story, one family’s experience of having left everything they know for a future they have little certainty about.
This was an Angus Glen Book club title for 2012. The book was disappointing especially the ending or lack of an ending. We could not connect to the characters or overall like them.
A Jewish family from Riga emigrates to the West via Rome. The novel recounts the time spent in Rome before the move to Canada of the three generations of this family. A little long but very humourous.
Hilariously funny; heartbreakingly sad - this is a wonderful book, my favourite of the year.
although not a fac of fiction, i read every word to the end, following the characters and their histories.
i enjoyed the Roman ambience -- more than in The Imperfectionists
A surprisingly good read if a little slow in places.
"My existence will be the same wherever we go." So asserts patriarch Samuil Krasnansky, a Red Army veteran who views emigration from Soviet-controlled Latvia not as a chance at freedom but as evidence of his own demise. David Bezmozgis sets his debut novel in Rome, a rest stop between two worlds, where Samuil, his wife, his sons and daughters-in-law, and his two grandchildren, await visas to travel to North America. Outsiders in their homeland, the family members now sit in limbo on the fringes of Italian society, juggling the hopes and the dangers inherent in "The Free World."
The novel contains much political detail: history surrounding the Bolshevik Revolution, the late 1970s status of the Soviet Union and allusions to peace talks between Egypt and Israel. Not, in my opinion, fodder for gripping fiction but Bezmozgis's focus and precise observations allow the story to flow unburdened. Even during moments of little action, when characters brood or reflect on the past, the book moves quickly and maintains the reader's interest.
Despite tinges of melodrama and the occasional skim-able chapter, "The Free World" provides a multi-faceted, genuine and unglorified version of the Jewish immigrant story.
Chatelaine Book Club recommendation April 2011: "The querolous Krasnansky family" flee the Soviet Union in the summer of 1978.
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