Marina Lewycka is best known for writing A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian. This book, already shortlisted for the annual Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse prize (which the Short History won back in 2005) might beat it into the shadows!
It’s set in North London in modern day. Berthold Sidebottom (named for the architect Berthold Lubetkin who his mother hints might be his real father) invites an old Ukrainian lady to move into his mother’s flat with him, after his mother befriended her in the hospital as she lay dying.
This might sound like a mad thing to do but grief makes you mad – as does the chance you might lose your council flat!
His next door neighbour Violet is discovering that her new job in International Wealth Preservation is not as glamourous as it sounds, in fact she feels rather dirty helping ridiculously rich people profit from the poor and avoid paying taxes. When their flats are threatened by a new development Violet galvanises the residents into action, even the greiving Berthold.
This book is so clever and so so funny. It is multi-layered with a host of multi-faceted characters. It is a love letter to a London that is fast vanishing and a persausive missive to everyone to commit to community spirit. It’s a keleidoscope – with every twist and turn it shows a different pattern created by the colourful characters, and you’re never sure what pattern will be revealed next.
There are mysteries, drama’s, romances, crimes, humour, pathos and victories in this book. I fell in love with Victoria and with Berthold’s mum pretty much as soon as I met them, and my creeping sympathy for Berthold grew stronger with every struggle he faced.
Put this review down and go grab yourself this book now!
NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews