Home is Nearby by Magdalena McGuire

Review published on September 2, 2017.

An excellent debut novel by a writer born in Poland and now living in Australia, this is described on the back cover as ‘a vivid and intimate exploration of the struggle to find your place in the world- no matter where you are’. It is about a group of bohemian students, one a sculptor, one a writer and a gay couple and set in Poland in the 1980s, the time of martial law, tanks on the street and curfews. Readers may remember Lech Walesa, Gdansk and Trabant cars. Finding themselves up against the military forces, the characters survive struggles and imprisonment and explore love, grief and relationships.

The novel left me with a feeling of sadness – for the tragedy that was Poland in the 80s – and excitement – for the artist/creator that is the heroine, Ania and the creative ability we all could perhaps have, if we allowed it to happen. I admired the author for writing about Ania’s strength to resist her imperfect lovers and find her own way to manage her grief and sadness and immersing herself in her work, but then being able to let it go. The symbol at the head of each chapter is of two fishes – fish out of water, I wonder?

I found the last chapter of the book very moving, but it has to be read in the context of the rest of the book. It serves as both a summary and an explanation of the title.

Jan Jeffery 5/5

Home is Nearby by Magdalena McGuire
Impress Books 9781911293149 pbk Nov 2017

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