Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Country Road, A Tree

A Country Road, A Tree

A Country Road, A Tree, by Jo Baker, was an interesting book, quite different from Longbourn, her novel about the below-stairs characters from Pride and Prejudice, which I really loved and blogged about here.


In this case, the main character, and it helps to know this ahead of time, is the Irish writer, Samuel Beckett. The author blends well-known facts with fiction in telling us of Beckett's life during the Second World War, which he spent in France, which was, of course, invaded and occupied by the Nazis in 1940 and divided into the Zone Occupée and the Zone Libre. 

Beckett started out in Paris, but since he was not a citizen, he was persona non grata and not only had to avoid the officials (Gestapo) but was not eligible for any food vouchers, making life for himself and his partner, Suzanne, very difficult. 

To add to the drama, Beckett was completely sympathetic with the French and, much to Suzanne's consternation and worry was drawn into the Résistance. Once it was too dangerous to stay on in Paris, they found their way to the Free Zone and continued to live under the radar. 

Beckett was at the same time a friend and compatriot of James Joyce, who was also living in France, as were many other writers and artists of the time. He collaborated and translated for Joyce and was greatly influenced by him, only coming out from under his influence and finding his own minimalist style after the war. 

Life in France during WW2, with neighbours who could not be trusted and significant inadequacies of food and shelter, was so difficult, it is hard to imagine now. The author reflects this discomfort onto the reader with her writing style - choppy sentences and paragraphs to cause squirminess. I nearly put the book aside at the beginning but am so glad I carried on to the end. I enjoyed learning about Samuel Beckett and having recently travelled to France, really related to the hardships of life there during the war and immediately after the Liberation.