Kimbofo reviews The Free World, by David Bezmozgis


The Real Giller decision is only 17 days away and the Shadow Jury is completing its first set of detailed observations. Trevor has already reviewed The Free World by David Bezmozgis and KfC’s review is here. Here are the opening thoughts from Kimbofo (her full review is here):

Imagine being stuck in a figurative “no man’s land”. You can’t return to the country you just left and you have no idea which new country will let you in. That is the dilemma experienced by the wide cast of characters in David Bezmozgis’ debut novel, The Free World.

Set in the late 1970s, the book tells the story of a family of Russian Jews fleeing the Soviet Union. Samuil, the patriarch, isn’t convinced of the need to emigrate — “In the war you ran from the enemy. Now who are you running from?” — and he is even less convinced when his war medals are seized at the border as “property of the state”.

But to his wife, Emma, and their sons, Alec and Karl and their wives Polina and Rosa, it is a chance to start afresh in a yet-to-be-chosen destination. The choices are relatively limited: they can go to Israel, direct from Vienna — where the book opens — with no need for additional paperwork, or they can go to Rome, another transit point, and sort out documentation for the USA, Canada or Australia.


5 Responses to “Kimbofo reviews The Free World, by David Bezmozgis”

  1. Guy Savage Says:

    I put this one on THE LIST after your review and it stays there are Kimbofo’s.


  2. Lisa Hill Says:

    Yes, I’ve succumbed too after reading Kim’s review, I kindled it straight away.
    BTW I’m currently reading a Giller Prize from 2005: The Time in Between. I probably bought that one after you or Trevor reviewed it for the Shadow Giller!


  3. KevinfromCanada Says:

    Lisa: That was pre-blog for me and a few years before Trevor’s involvement with the Shadow Giller. The Time In Between is one of my least favorite winners, I must admit, and the shortlist in 2005 was quite weak. I do remember it, however, so maybe it was better than I thought it was when I read it. I’ll look forward to hearing what you think of it.


  4. Lisa Hill Says:

    Ah, I wonder how I come to have it on my TBR, then. Come to think of it, it was before the rise of online book buying for me too. Some enterprising local bookseller must have had it!
    I’ve been to Vietnam, including Da Nang, so I’m finding it very interesting.


  5. RickP Says:

    I’m with Kevin on The Time In Between. I thought it was well written but just a middling review from me. It meandered a little long for my taste and without a particular payoff.

    Based on Kevin’s comments, I probably liked it a little more than he did.


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