Friday, December 2, 2016

A Country Road, A Tree by Jo Baker


Jo Baker is the author of six novels, most recently Longbourn and A Country Road, A Tree. She has also written for BBC Radio 4, and her short stories have been included in a number of anthologies. She lives in Lancaster, England, with her husband, the playwright and screenwriter Daragh Carville, and their two children.
From the best-selling author of  Longbourn,  a stunning new novel that follows an unnamed writer--Samuel Beckett--whose life and extraordinary literary gift are permanently shaped in the forge of war.

When war breaks out in Europe in 1939, a young, unknown writer journeys from his home in neutral Ireland to conflict-ridden Paris and is drawn into the maelstrom. With him we experience the hardships yet stubborn vibrancy at the heart of Europe during the Nazis' rise to power; his friendships with James Joyce and other luminaries; his quietly passionate devotion to the Frenchwoman who will become his lifelong companion; his secret work for the French Resistance and narrow escapes from the Gestapo; his flight from occupied Paris to the countryside; and the rubble of his life after liberation. And through it all we are witness to workings of a uniquely brilliant mind struggling to create a language that will express his experience of this shattered world. Here is a remarkable story of survival and determination, and a portrait of the extremes of human experience alchemized into timeless art.
Having enjoyed Jo Baker’s previous work, I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review her latest novel – “A Country Road, A Tree.” In fact, I barely managed to stay away from it until I finish the rest on the TBR pile. 
This novel tells the story of the Irish writer, Samuel Beckett, trapped in France during World War II. As the novel opens in 1939, James Joyce is still alive and living in Paris. Joyce obstinately refuses to acknowledge the war and acts as blind to it as he is in real life. Beckett worked for Joyce for a time as secretary and translator. Imagine trying to translate Ulysses or Finegan's Wake.
My inner English Literature Major was in Heaven: A gorgeous book, splendid prose, and one I didn't want to put down. An interest in Beckett is in no ways essential, but reading this novel helped me appreciate his writing even more. Baker believes that Beckett's war time experiences transformed his writing into the sparse style we associate with Beckett. The scenes in the book when Beckett is waiting to make contact with other Resistance fighters are very redolent of scenes in Waiting for Godot. I am in awe!!!!
The writing is spectacularly engrossing, thought provoking, and there's a naked quality to it. No doubt that everyone who opens it will fall in love with it straight away!
This a different breed of book... You see it doesn't say a lot, but it conveys sooo much that I felt as if I was slapped by a complete stranger. Jo Baker writes beautiful euridite prose so it goes without saying this book is no exception.5FOXGIVEN