Often, I find fiction the best way to gain an insight into the human side of political events. In the case of The Free World by David Bezmozgis, it’s the exodus of Jews from Russia that’s explored, and the impact of this journey on the people who leave, as well as those who remain behind.
It’s 1978 and a train takes a family from Latvia to Vienna to Rome in search of a new life – the destination is less important than the act of departure itself. Alec and his wife Polina, his brother Karl, Karl’s wife Rosa, their sons and Alec and Karl’s parents Samuil and Emma, make up a hopeful, sometimes fearful, frequently exhausted and exasperated group of travellers among the huge volume of émigrés realising how different the rest of the world is to the place they left behind.
The point of view changes from chapter to chapter, offering you fresh opinions and perceptions of the city that is serving as their temporary home while they first try to choose their destination, and then struggle to attain the required visas. Continue reading