My first advice to you would be: don’t be fooled by the colourful cover. By all means admire it, but don’t think you are going to be treated to the literary delights of ‘Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord’
or ‘The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman
‘. In fact, if you’ve developed a taste for the aforementioned culinary delights that de Bernieres was producing back in the 90’s, then you will be deeply disappointed. With ‘A Partisan’s Daughter
‘ it seems de Bernieres lingual rainbow has faded somewhat. I always likened his novels to a painting with lots of colour and movement; but this one felt like he had a limited palette to work from. I suppose what I’m trying to say is, it’s not as inspired as for example, ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
‘. There was no iridescence, no effervescence. I, for one, didn’t care about the characters as much as I should of. In fact, I was pretty happy when it was finished, because it made me feel grey and dull. A thin gruel, indeed.
So, this book is much more subdued compared to the spicy mediterranean novels of previous years. Another quality about him that I like is that De Bernieres has the wonderful ability to convey cultures, and people of those cultures with uncanny accuracy. The era this book is set in, and the countries it looks at (Thatcher-era Britain and the Yugoslavian Tito-era War) is a time plagued with boredom, hardship, monotony and most of all loneliness. It’s very hard for a writer to make a story interesting when it’s set during times like this. But I am pleased to say, De Bernieres pulls it off very well.What a reader is left with however, is another issue; an all-too-well feeling of war-torn Balkan humour and an aftertaste of dread for the 70’s that I have never previously had before. The story is supposed to emulate the style of the 1001 nights, in that Roza, our female protagonist, seduces Chris (boring pharmaceutical salesman) through accounts of her wild days as a partisan’s daughter, a
mathematics student in Zagreb and her career as a prostitute.
As can be expected, De Bernieres writes all this with a humorous twist, that made me laugh out loud in some places, but I just got overwhelmed by the sheer boredom the characters were suffering from. ‘The Great White Loaf’, the shit brown Austin and ‘the Bob Dylan Upstairs’ will remain with me for years to come. But it’s a certain grottiness that permeates through the narrative that one could do without.
I give this 3/5 Stars.
Note: Do not read when ill/ suffering from depression or are altogether a bit down in the dumps. It’ll just make you feel worse.