So, A Partisan’s Daughter had a sad ending after all. The reason I had a copy of the book but knew almost nothing about it was that it was a free book given away at the Harvill Centenary last year. I thought it was given away because of the spelling mistake: Roza’s childhood friend introduces herself as Natalja – “but everybody calls me Tasha.” But on page 120, she’s called “Natasha”. I know I’m a nerd, but I had time to kill in Foyles bookshop the other day and actually went and checked a later reprint of the book, Natasha was there in that copy too.
There were stories within a story in this novel and some of the stories inside were not very plausible. I think that was a plot element; the fact that one of the characters was telling incredible stories. The whole novel was a bit post-modern anyway, a-novel-is-what-you-make-of-it type of thing. I noticed that Roza, a Serbian woman from Yugoslavia, was speaking broken English at the beginning, but improved a lot later, over the course of, I don’t know, a few months – maybe she was faking it at the beginning (maybe she wasn’t even a Serb from Yugoslavia!). Now that makes me curious about the name thing I just mentioned. Hmm…
The book had a few philosophical sections and words of wisdom. One thing I needed to read at this point in my life:
Roza said that the reason she got upset about the tramp was that you could be a hero and survive in hell, and get awarded the Partisan Star, and then still die like a rat, and it’s just another day, and nothing’s changed. Roza said that the episode gave her horrible feelings about the futility of life’s struggles. I remember another time when she said that if you felt that life was futile, it had a liberating effect, because then you were prepared to do almost anything. I remember talking to a philosopher in a bar once. He was another one who was delaying going home to his wife. He advised me that I should never be frightened of failure, because one day I was going to die anyway (94).
I was waiting for the airport bus at Victoria when I finished the book and had a few more hours to kill. I went out to look for a secondhand bookshop to exchange it, but all I found was a tiny old bookshop that had a sign somewhere that read “the material beyond this point is for over 18’s; be advised that the images you see if you cross this point may disturb you.” So I went to the WH Smith at Victoria and bought two more books (only because they were buy one get one half price): David Nicholls’s One Day and Juan Gabriel Vásquez’s The Secret History of Costaguana. Our luggage was already in excess so I couldn’t really afford three hundred more grammes but I didn’t want to throw away a book, so I left my copy of A Partisan’s Daughter in the seating area at Victoria Coach Station – well that suits the themes of fate and chance and everything in the book.
I started with One Day, because I read somewhere that they’re making it into a film. Apparently Anne Hathaway is playing Emma, whereas I couldn’t help picturing Carey Mulligan as I read the first half. I like it, will write a few lines when I finish.