Sunday, November 27

Book Review: The Free World

Title: The Free World

Author: David Bezmozgis

Pages: Ebook (Approx 302)

Summary: Summer, 1978. Brezhnev sits like a stone in the Kremlin, Israel and Egypt are inching towards peace, and in the bustling, polyglot streets of Rome, strange new creatures have appeared: Soviet Jews who have escaped to freedom through a crack in the Iron Curtain. Among the thousands who have landed in Italy to secure visas for new lives in the West are the members of the Krasnansky family -- three generations of Russian Jews.

There is Samuil, an old Communist and Red Army veteran, who reluctantly leaves the country to which he has dedicated himself body and soul; Karl, his elder son, a man eager to embrace the opportunities emigration affords; Alec, his younger son, a carefree playboy for whom life has always been a game; and Polina, Alec's new wife, who has risked the most by breaking with her old family to join this new one. Together, they will spend six months in Rome -- their way station and purgatory. They will immerse themselves in the carnival of emigration, in an Italy rife with love affairs and ruthless hustles, with dislocation and nostalgia, with the promise and peril of a better life. Through the unforgettable Krasnansky family, David Bezmozgis has created an intimate portrait of a tumultuous era.

My Rating: 6/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I started off enjoying the book, it was well written and had a good plot, but I felt in the second half of the book dragged on, and the story seemed to veer off too far into the personal affairs, rather than an outlook on immigrant life.

The first part of the book was very well done, slow moving yes, but it worked so well for this book as it examined the struggles and sacrifices made by the immigrants and how they try to make a new life for themselves in a temporary home before moving on to some place permanent. The author did a fantastic job at describing the struggles within their own culture and social groups, families and those groups and families around them. It gave the reader a very strong sense of what life was like then.

Unfortunately, I found that the book began to drag on by the second half, the plot began to stand still, and there wasn't a lot of development for the character. I began to dislike a lot of the characters, wsn't impressed with their actions, and felt the author spent a lot of time focusing on certain actions (affairs) instead of pushing the plot forward. I felt that some of the characters development was sacrificed, in an attempt to create a bit of drama in the book. By the end of the book it was hard for me to feel sympathetic for the characters.

The book was well written, and the first half had a lot of strength to it, but by the end I felt it began t unravel. I would have liked it much better if it had continued to focus on the social-economic and cultural struggles, rather than the individual characters personal affairs.

Would I recommend it to read: I think I still would, I'm sure a lot of readers would enjoy the book more than I did.

What to read next: The other books from the Giller shortlist, I've been enjoying reading them all. Even if I don't enjoy every single one, it's interesting to see the variety the shortlist had.

Challenges: Canadian Reading Challenge 5


  1. I didn't enjoy this one as much as I enjoyed his collection of stories, Natasha, which I loved. I understand why he chose the structure he chose, but it did make it hard to feel close to the characters.

  2. I also had this book out from the library, but I didn't get around to it. I haven't done very well with Canadian books this year....

  3. Buried in Print - I didn't know he had a collection of short stories, interesting. Thanks for the heads up. It was a book I was surprised I didn't like, and it was one of the Giller (shortlist) ones I bought instead of borrow from the library, as initially it sounded like one I'd enjoy the most.

    Kailana - This one may one to put aside, I'd try the Cat's Table or Half-Blood Blues if you're interested in Canadian fiction from the Giller finalist books.

  4. Hmmm I've been debating reading this one but I don't think I'll put it at the top of my list. I get bored with books easily that focus on affairs and other intrigue as opposed to other plot points, so yeah. Thanks for the review!