Hilarious new novel from the bestselling author of A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian. North London in the twenty-first century: a place where a son will swiftly adopt an old lady and take her home from hospital to impersonate his dear departed mother, rather than lose the council flat.
A time of golden job opportunities, though you might have to dress up as a coffee bean or work as an intern at an undertaker or put up with champagne and posh French dinners while your boss hits on you.
A place rich in language – whether it’s Romanian, Ukrainian, Russian, Swahili or buxom housing officers talking managementese.
A place where husbands go absent without leave and councillors sacrifice cherry orchards at the altar of new builds. Marina Lewycka is back in this hilarious, farcical, tender novel of modern issues and manners.
It’s not often you find a nice, satirical novel dealing with the complexities of modern life. This book provides just that. Ms Lewycka gives us insight on what life in modern London is like when you’re just a normal person struggling between unemployment, health issues, an overly-complex love life… and of course, your everyday benefit fraud. When Berthold’s mother dies, he is forced to take Inna, a complete stranger met at the hospital, home with him to impersonate his mother until he can transfer the tenancy of the small council house in his name. But Inna, with her eccentricites, Ukranian food and broken English might be just what Berthold needed to jump start his life again.
This book was really interesting in many respects. I enjoyed taking a look at Berthold’s life and that of the people who shared his same situation. This book can boast an impressive cast of colourful characters, each more bizarre than the last, and they were truly a joy to read about. Inna in particular was a favourite of mine, with her weird view of the world and her adorably funny way of speaking. And while I have to admit I wasn’t a big fan of Berthold’s at the beginning (and throughout most of the book), he did kind of grow on me by the end, and I was happy to see him change so radically throughout. I also enjoyed Violet’s storyline – the young, Kenyan girl who tries to make it and the big city, but soon has to decide between her integrity and her job. She is a tough character, trying hard to find herself and her path in the midst of chaos and definitely very admirable.
On the whole, this was a very enjoyable read. The only thing that disappointed me a little were actually my expectations of it: it was pitched as “hilarious“, so I was expecting a lot more humor than I actually found in it. Sure, I smiled through most of it, but I never found it laugh-out-loud funny. Now this may totally be me not getting it, but it still left me slightly dissatisfied exactly because I was expecting a different thing. But if you like a good satire, it’s definitely worth a read!