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The Road Home by Rose Tremain - WTF (contains spoilers)

(16 Posts)
fruttututti Sun 25-Aug-19 17:30:37

What on earth did I just read?! Lev was a pretty unsympathetic character already but when he raped his ex (who is portrayed as some kind of temptress with no morals) I was really surprised to find the author still wanted me to root for him. And what was that weird paedophile play part about? And the bit where he is seduced by the stereotypical Chinese men?

What a strange book. Anyone else read it?

I read the gustav sonata before this which I really enjoyed despite finding the characters weirdly unemotional and robotic.

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Mollyboboff Sun 25-Aug-19 17:35:30

I don't make lists of books I've read but I'm sure I've read this one.
He travels to the Uk on a coach and is befriended by a woman who keeps in contact. He has a child back in his hometown, his mother also features in it. He works as a pot washer.
Am I right ? If so yes a strange read. Read as a book group read.

fruttututti Sun 25-Aug-19 17:38:56

Yes that's the one! He starts of as a pot washer who doesn't know any English and ends up as a head chef in record time.

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Wellthatsit Sun 25-Aug-19 17:58:37

What? I don't remember my of those things. Read this and really enjoyed it. Was I asleep?

SwedishEdith Sun 25-Aug-19 18:08:36

I read this a few years ago and don't remember rape. I do miss stuff so might read up about it now. I remember I quite liked it.

OriginofSpecies Sun 25-Aug-19 18:13:37

Yes! I read it, also as a bookclub read, about 10 years ago.

I thought exactly the same about the rape and thought wtf have I just read, esp when the author still expects you to have sympathy with Lev.

When it came to discussing the book, I was the only one who seemed concerned about that scene; everyone else just brushed it aside hmm. I'd like to think these days I'd be slightly more persuasive as to why I thought it was "wrong".

OriginofSpecies Sun 25-Aug-19 18:18:15

Also, I wondered if I'd misread/misinterpreted the rape scene, but I think I'd borrowed the book from someone else and I wasn't inclined to look for another copy to re-read that scene.

I can't remember the paedophile play or Chinese men though, but I do remember thinking the 'rags to riches' plot was ridiculous.

It's put me off reading other books by Rose Tremain.

fruttututti Sun 25-Aug-19 18:30:31

Yes while he's picking veg at the farm he befriends to Chinese men called "the mings" who talk in a quite stereotypical way and seduce him on his birthday! It serves no purpose to the plot and is just bizarre.

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fruttututti Sun 25-Aug-19 18:34:04

Also, I wondered if I'd misread/misinterpreted the rape scene, but I think I'd borrowed the book from someone else and I wasn't inclined to look for another copy to re-read that scene.

The main character even refers to it as "almost rape" when he talks to his friend about it later on!

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OriginofSpecies Sun 25-Aug-19 18:42:51

The main character even refers to it as "almost rape" when he talks to his friend about it later on! shock

Makes it even weirder that no-one else in the group seemed to have a problem with it.

I wonder with the #me too generation it might be read differently these days? Not that I'm excusing what is clearly a horrific scene of course.

fruttututti Sun 25-Aug-19 18:59:52

Yes I think so. It's written really graphically as well, in kind of a tittilating way. And straight after I think were meant to feel sorry for him?! Makes me not want to read anything else by the author that's for sure.

Oh and the paedophile play is this weird chapter where he goes to see a play and it's about a man who orders a blowup sex doll of his young daughter and ends the play having sex with it!

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fruttututti Sun 25-Aug-19 20:34:40

Oh sorry and then after the play the main character tries to strangle the girl he later rapes! Sorry I'm still reeling from finishing it shock.

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OstrichRunning Sun 25-Aug-19 20:50:33

I read this a few years ago and loved it. I do think when a character novel like it is boiled down to aspects of the plot, it's just too reductive. A novel is saying exactly those words in that order. You can't generalise. The 'almost rape' scene is awful but I think it's really interesting to find yourself as a reader still - though in a more complex way - rooting for the character after it. It's brave to go there as a writer. I don't think he raped her but maybe if I read it now I'd have a different opinion. It forces you to consider the subject of rape in a way nothing else could.

It's not that rags to riches either - he works hard, he's talented and careful, his success is hard earned and hardly fantastical - seemed plausible to me.

For me anyway, good novels capture complexity of life, what being alive can mean. Not full of absolutes and characters that never do anything wrong...

Sorry am knackered and probably making no sense... rambling. But The Road Home is a fucking amazing novel.

OstrichRunning Sun 25-Aug-19 20:52:40

can't remember the weird play bit but I do remember the novel does in places send up pretentiousness/ shit art in the art world - maybe that's what that's about? It's a while sombre I read it

OstrichRunning Sun 25-Aug-19 20:53:11

*since

fruttututti Sun 25-Aug-19 22:42:07

* The 'almost rape' scene is awful but I think it's really interesting to find yourself as a reader still - though in a more complex way - rooting for the character after it. It's brave to go there as a writer. I don't think he raped her but maybe if I read it now I'd have a different opinion. It forces you to consider the subject of rape in a way nothing else could*

He describes her as a whore during that scene, he talks about her "briny cunt", and let's not forget he tried to strangle her at the weird play. I'm struggling to know how anyone could sympathise with him at this point.

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