Voyeuristic intent

2008-05-14 00:00

Written by the author of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, A Partisan’s Daughter is a simple tale of a man’s infatuation with a mysterious woman he meets one lonely night.

Chris is stuck in a state of ennui. His relationship with his wife, referred to as the Great White Loaf, has lost all meaning and their physical relationship has dwindled to zero. In stark contrast, the exotic Yugoslavian Roza is alive, exciting and fascinates Chris, awakening his senses, his interest and his flagging libido — his rescuer from tedium.

Roza begins to tell Chris her life story and while telling, likes to shock. He is held spellbound by her narrative, both repelled and intrigued by what she relates of life in a foreign clime. She is aware of the effect her tales have on Chris, and relishes his excitement as he becomes a voyeur into the most intimate moments of her life. His own life has been no adventure. He has led a dull existence and this spurs him on to discover more about her as he hungers for the vicarious excitement Roza offers.

Frustratingly for Chris, he lacks the confidence to move their relationship to the next level He is on a knife-edge of pent-up sexual longing for the attractive young woman. He admires her when he’s with her, and fantasises about her constantly when they are apart.

But are Roza’s stories larger than life? Is she embellishing to keep the naïve Chris hanging on to each word she says? As much as Chris needs her to fill a void in his life, does Roza too not need him there to stem loneliness and create her very own audience for the show she performs from her dingy London room? Can they weather their existential crises together and form a meaningful romantic relationship or will the act of sharing finally destroy their chances of being together?

The story is beautifully told. De Bernières’s humanistic approach makes this a touching novel with layers of emotion, a stark portrayal of London in the 1970s, and he uses the device of a story within a story to its best effect.

Stephanie Saville

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