The Free World by David Bezmozgis

TitleThe Free World
Author: David Bezmozgis
Genre: historical fiction
ISBN: 9780374281403
Length: 354 pages
Published: March 29, 2011
Source: public library
Rating: 3/5
Resolutions: Published in 2011 Resolution; Further Exploration

Reason for Reading: I was researching books to be released this year (2011) and this one sounded really appealing. So I read it for the resolution 🙂

Summary (from Goodreads):

Summer, 1978. Brezhnev sits like a stone in the Kremlin, Israel and Egypt are inching towards peace, and in the bustling, polyglot streets of Rome, strange new creatures have appeared: Soviet Jews who have escaped to freedom through a crack in the Iron Curtain. Among the thousands who have landed in Italy to secure visas for new lives in the West are the members of the Krasnansky family — three generations of Russian Jews.

There is Samuil, an old Communist and Red Army veteran, who reluctantly leaves the country to which he has dedicated himself body and soul; Karl, his elder son, a man eager to embrace the opportunities emigration affords; Alec, his younger son, a carefree playboy for whom life has always been a game; and Polina, Alec’s new wife, who has risked the most by breaking with her old family to join this new one. Together, they will spend six months in Rome — their way station and purgatory. They will immerse themselves in the carnival of emigration, in an Italy rife with love affairs and ruthless hustles, with dislocation and nostalgia, with the promise and peril of a better life. Through the unforgettable Krasnansky family, David Bezmozgis has created an intimate portrait of a tumultuous era.

My Thoughts: While there was nothing at all wrong with this book, there wasn’t anything too extraordinary either. I found the subject of the story interesting: a family unit leaving Soviet Russia in 1978 for better lives in the free world. But there were stuck in limbo in Rome for the “present” parts of the story. They had to wait for visas to other countries to emigrate to, which explains their wait in Rome. Interestingly enough, the Krasnansky family didn’t exactly experience any push factors for them to leave Russia; rather, there were just pulling factors, things about the West they wanted. But the interest I had in the story about this time and subject of history didn’t weigh enough to make me feel anything more than neutral for it.

But if Bezmozgis had his facts straight, from what I read, I think the Soviet Union would let its citizens leave the country without any ramifications if they paid a certain amount for it. So, the communists capitalized on their subjects wanting to live in a capitalist country? Odd 🙂


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