29.7.11

Book Quote Friday: The Happy Ending

      Sometimes, at the end of a rough day, all you want is food, bath and the miraculous good fortune of a happy ending in your bedtime read. 

     I know there’s been a bit of a Rose Tremain love in on this blog lately (I most recently talked abut her short story, Moth), but after seeing her speak at the Vintage events I’ve worked my way back through a fair part of her back catalogue. As a general conclusion, it rocks. If you haven’t read much of hers, you should probably stop reading now as seeing the name of the book will tell you the ending of said book (tis tricky to write a post about a happy ending without revealing the ending, of course) and these books are so good that I wouldn’t want to do anything that would discourage you from reading any of them.


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     For those of you who are still with me, today’s happy ending quote is from 'The Road Home', a 2007 novel about Lev, an economic migrant from Eastern Europe who comes to the UK to work after the sawmills in his village close. I found I worried about him and rooted for him profusely whilst reading, not least because he’s quietly mourning the death of his wife and feels immense guilt for starting to see the positives in a difficult life choice that meant he had to leave his daughter in the indifferent care of her grandmother. Slowly, starting out as a kitchen porter in a fast-paced London restaurant, he learns that he has a passion and a talent for cooking, meaning he is able to work in the UK as a chef in an old folks’ home before taking his skills back home and, in an extremely gratifying move for both him and the reader, opens a restaurant that means he can support and employ his family and his friends. 

     The happy ending in this book is all the more uplifting as it involves a man who doesn’t, in public opinion, always get one: the Eastern European economic migrant.  I guess if this was written in the US, that migrant would perhaps be Mexican, I don’t know. Anyway, the one of the joys of this book for me was the championing of a man who is brave enough to venture into the unknown with the express intention of improving his and his family’s lot. That’s not often the way this group are represented in the UK media; for the large part their sole representation is someone pointing out how they are coming over and taking over our building sites/agricultural obligations/plumbing responsibilities and providing a need for a Polish supermarket in every large town (which to them, oddly, is a negative). Few acknowledge that fact that if you were in a similar economic situation and you saw on opportunity to better it, you would. Wouldn’t you? I certainly would. I guess it’s often easier and less troubling to say firmly placed within your own shoes rather than trying on someone else’s.

     Anyway, great book and a happy, happy ending.


     ‘Lev’s restaurant opened in deep winter.

     It had no sign, no real name. People came to know it as Number 43 Podrorsky Street.
The Road Home: A NovelSometimes, as he inspected the table settings, examining the glassware for cleanliness and shine, Lev would see people staring through the doors in the middle of the afternoon, as darkness was falling. ‘The gawpers,’ Lora called them. But in time, it seemed, most of the gawpers became diners. This was still a small town, despite all the new building going on, despite the new enterprises obliterating the old, and rumours about good food you could eat at Number 43 Podrorsky Street, for reasonable prices, swept round New Baryn like a long series of favourable weather forecasts. By the end of the winter season, bookings were running two or three weeks ahead.
     
     Rudi – who nightly pirouetted from dining room to bar to kitchen and back with an air of seductive authority, like a conjuror, and whose interpretation of his role as the face-of-the-place lead him to frequent, startling fits of generosity with free drinks – quickly commented that the place should have been larger, but Lev said no, this was right, this was what he’d wanted: this number of tables, this menu, this consistent adherence to fresh produce, this feeling of intimacy and light…

     In Lev’s kitchen – his adored domain – the gas flames burned an obedient blue, leaped to yellow on sudden , triumphant command; the salamanders glowed and simmered to violent vulcan red. And the sight of all this rainbow heat could often wake in Lev a feeling of joy as absolute as anything he’d ever felt. Because he’d mastered it. At long last in his life, these racing, unquantifiable wonders had become obedient to his will.’



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