I’m thrilled to host today’s stop on the blog tour for Home Is Nearby, the debut novel by Magdalena McGuire, which is published on 1st November 2017. Rather than write a standard review, I thought I’d channel just a little bit of the creativity at the heart of Home Is Nearby and give you thirteen reasons to read this thought-provoking and fascinating book.
My thanks to Natalie at Impress Books for the advance proof copy and the invitation to join the blog tour.
About the Book
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 write 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?
Format: Paperback , eBook (320 pp.) Publisher: Impress Books
Published: 1st November 2017 Genre: Literary Fiction
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Find Home is Nearby on Goodreads
13 Reasons Why I Loved Home is Nearby
1) Our narrator, Ania: her relationship with her father, her courage, her determination to be true to herself, her commitment to her art and the gradual awakening of her creativity as she is exposed to the contemporary art scene
‘The tin can sculpture, the cubes, Malgorzata’s photos – these were far from traditional. And yet here they were displayed in a gallery. I was beginning to see that being an artist didn’t mean I had to copy the masters. What I did have to do was create something that belonged to me – something that no one else could make.’
2) Ania’s father: his tender, unselfish support of Ania’s desire to be an artist, his sacrifices and his unconditional love
3) Learning about the economic situation in Poland in the 1980s – food shortages (using teabags multiple times, drinking water before eating to feel fuller), waiting lists for a telephone line or an apartment (unless you could afford a bribe or to call in a favour)
4) Learning about the political background and the Polish state’s attempts to stifle the rise of the Solidarity movement: censorship, internment, surveillance, informers and control of the press. Was this really happening as recently as the 1980s?
5) The defiance of the Polish people both explicit (student protests, graffiti) and implicit (carrying on with traditional Christmas preparations)
‘Every time the militiamen painted over the graffiti, it appeared again the next day. With new slogans, bigger writing. It was an ongoing battle between us and them: slogan, silence, slogan.’
6) The way the author brings to life the process of creating art from initial inspiration, through manufacture to completion.
‘The professor was right. Metal was a masculine material, the stuff of guns and tanks. If I was going to work with it I had to find a way to use it slyly, with a wink in the other direction. Take the notion of hardness and turn it on its head.’
7) Examining the question that Ania wrestles with – is art enough? ‘What good was a picture when people were suffering?’ ‘What good was sculpture at a time like this? Unlike Dominik’s writing, it couldn’t change the world.’ Ania’s gradual realisation that art can be an act of defiance as well.
8) The evocative picture of rural Poland and the constrast between life there and in the city. As Dominik says: ‘I’d forgotten what the rural parts of Poland were like.’
9) The moral dilemmas facing Ania and others protesting against the system and the anguish and consequences that follow from their decisions
10) The insight into Polish customs, culture, food and drink (carp, cabbage parcels, cherry compote)
11) How contemporary events and culture in the rest of the world are woven in – the rise of punk rock, Ronald Reagan, Hollywood films.
12) That Ania’s final piece neatly alludes to the author’s own act of creativity.
13) The gorgeous cover
About the Author
Magdalena is an award-winning writer who was born in Poland, grew up in Darwin and now lives in Melbourne with her husband and son. Her short stories have been published by The Big Issue, Mslexia, Margaret River Press and The Bristol Prize. She won the 2017Mslexia Women’s Short Story Competition with ‘Salt Madonna’. 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. Home is Nearby is her debut novel.
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