Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Free World

Just finished reading David Bezmozgis' newest novel - actually for the second time.  I read it several months ago but it's on the agenda for my book club this weekend so I wanted to refresh my memory.  It was equally engaging the second time through.  The book is set in the late 1970s and explores the limbo an extended family of Soviet Jewish emigres endures in Italy while trying to gain admission to Canada.  The story is told from several perspectives - that of the younger son, his new wife and his father.  The father is the most interesting character - he's reluctantly left the Soviet Union where he was a respected member of the Communist Party and a war hero.  His memories of the time before and during the Russian revolution capture the interesting perspective of the Jews who survived pogroms during the Czar's regime and thus welcomed the "freedoms" they gained under Communist rule.  I had less sympathy for his two sons, one a petty criminal, the other a philanderer with little direction.  The book is also replete with other former Soviet citizens who wander in and out of the main characters' lives and explores tensions between religious and secular, Zionists and those who fear the violence in Israel even as they follow the developing peace agreement between Sadat and Begin, and those who appear to have an honest desire to leave the Soviet Union and create better lives for themselves as opposed to career criminals which it seems the Soviet Union may have been glad to offload on the west.  I really like Bezmozgis' writing style - it's clear and concise, but far from simplistic.

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