A Partisan’s Daughter by Louis de Bernières - review by Simon Baker

Simon Baker

Bedtime Stories

A Partisan’s Daughter

By

Harvill Secker 212pp £16.99 order from our bookshop
 

Chris’s opening line to Roza in this novel is hardly romantic – he propositions her in the street, wrongly believing her to be a prostitute – but somehow it leads to the relationship on which A Partisan’s Daughter is based. Roza accepts Chris’s mortified apology, and admits that at one time she did sell her body, charging £500 per encounter (a remarkable figure given the year in which this is set – of which more later). She does not, however, tell him that she was deliberately trying to be mistaken for a prostitute, merely for something to do. Chris drives her to her grotty house, where afterwards they meet every few days. During these encounters they sit a chaste distance apart, and Roza regales Chris with stories about her youth in Yugoslavia and her subsequent nocturnal life in a Soho clip-joint. The stories are luridly sexual (her father was her first lover) and filled with danger: she is a modern Scheherazade, and poor, suburban Chris is enthralled.

A Partisan’s Daughter is narrated alternately by the two characters. Roza clearly embellishes her stories to scandalise Chris, but falls for him. Chris is middling and sad, blaming his predicament on his wife’s failure to ‘understand’ him. He is a good listener, however, and a gentle sort – although, heavily

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