A little while ago, as part of the launch celebrations for Home is Nearby I was lucky enough to host an interview with Magadalena McGuire that you can read here. Today I’m thrilled to be sharing my review of Home is Nearby.
Published by Impress Books on 1st November 2017, Home is Nearby is available for preorder in e-book and paperback through the publisher links here.
Home is Nearby
1980: the beginning of the Polish Crisis. Brought up in a small village, country-girl Ania arrives in the university city of Wroclaw to pursue her career as a sculptor. Here she falls in love with Dominik, an enigmatic writer at the centre of a group of bohemians and avant-garde artists who throw wild parties. When martial law is declared, their lives change overnight: military tanks appear on the street, curfews are introduced and the artists are driven underground. Together, Ania and Dominik fight back, pushing against the boundaries imposed by the authoritarian communist government. But at what cost? ‘Home Is Nearby’ is a vivid and intimate exploration of the struggle to find your place in the world no matter where you are.
My Review of Home is Nearby
Country born Ania is off to start a new life as an art student, but events in Poland mean her life won’t be quite as she expects.
I have a confession. Initially I didn’t like Home is Nearby at all because I picked it up and started it three times, getting interrupted and not getting into the swing of reading it. However, I finally found a stretch of time where I could concentrate and as soon as that happened I was completely drawn in to the narrative and totally absorbed in every element of this beautifully layered and compelling tale.
Although I was aware at the time of the events happening in Poland around which the narrative is based, I had never really considered them from an individual perspective. Magdalena McGuire drills down through the layers of society so that the political, cultural and historical settings come alive from Ania’s viewpoint making everything personal, vivid and actually quite disturbing. Reading Home is Nearby narrowed that distance I think we have when we see things through the media and gave me an intense and immediate look into the lives of those affected. As a result I ended the book feeling moved and included.
Indeed, the characters were all so authentic and realistic so that I felt I knew them personally. I don’t want to spoil the plot but one small action from one of them (and you’ll have to read Home is Nearby for yourself to see if you know what I mean…) left me almost breathless with rage. I found myself talking to the characters, Ania and Dominik in particular, and giving them both advice and admonitions.
The quality of the writing is excellent. I have always considered art to be slightly pretentious and ’emperor’s new clothes’ but Magdalena McGuire’s writing helped me appreciate and understand what art’s various forms can add to our lives. I thought the exploration of the links between art and life was incredibly interesting.
However, it was the themes of loyalty, love, country, identity and, of course, what home is, that I found so affecting. The emotion I felt at the end of the book was physical so that the experience of reading Home is Nearby will stay with me for a considerable time.
Having begun not particularly engaged with Home is Nearby, I ended my read feeling as if I am a changed person as a result of Magdalena McGuire’s skilful, beautiful prose. What more can we ask of a book than that it changes our lives?
About Magdalena McGuire
Magdalena McGuire was born in Poland, grew up in Darwin, and now lives in Melbourne. Her short stories have been published in the UK and Australia by The Big Issue and The Bristol Prize, and by Margaret River Press respectively. She has published widely on human rights topics, including women’s rights and the rights of people with disabilities. She is an avid reader and particularly enjoys reading books about girls who like reading books. Her first novel, Home Is Nearby, is set in Poland, Australia and the United Kingdom, in the eventful period of the 1980s. She is also working on a collection of short stories that focus on questions of place, identity and unbelonging, particularly in cross-cultural contexts, as well as another historical fiction novel.
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