Book reviews, Literary fiction

Home Is Nearby by Magdalena McGuire

Home Is Nearby is the first novel by Polish author Magdalena McGuire and it won Impress Books’ New Writers’ Prize in 2016. 

Home is Nearby

What’s it about?

Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

1980: the beginning of the Polish Crisis. Brought up in a small village, country-girl Ania arrives in the university city of Wroclaw to pursue her career as a sculptor. Here she falls in love with Dominik, an enigmatic writer at the centre of a group of bohemians and avant-garde artists who throw wild parties. When martial law is declared, their lives change overnight: military tanks appear on the street, curfews are introduced and the artists are driven underground. Together, Ania and Dominik fight back, pushing against the boundaries imposed by the authoritarian communist government. But at what cost?

‘Part of my impetus in writing my novel is that I wanted to explore this lost Poland, the country I could’ve grown up in, but didn’t. In particular, I wanted to explore what life could have been like for a young woman living under communism and making art.

Nineteen-eighties Poland provides a dramatic and underexplored setting to examine the types of questions I’m interested in. What was it like to live through a turbulent period in history, when your civil liberties were taken away? How was it that artists managed to make such exciting work when, officially, they were stripped of artistic freedom? And what might happen if love and politics came into conflict?

What’s good about it?

McGuire writes characters really well. Her protagonists are believable and realistic and their predicaments are very relatable. Ania’s experience of leaving home for university and meeting new, interesting people was full of heart.

She also writes place beautifully. Polish cities and culture come to life in the book, and I was fully absorbed by the environments McGuire creates.

The book explores the tensions between art and the state; creativity and politics; free speech and martial law. The contrasts are fascinating and the struggles of the characters are presented as both political and personal journeys.

Home is Nearby is an emotional narrative with a political edge. The story is thoroughly enjoyable and stayed with me long after reading.

What’s not so good about it?

I thought this was a great book so I have no constructive criticism to offer.

Home is Nearby is available from Impress Books now. Thanks for the proof, guys.

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