Anthony Cummins

Viennese Waltz

The Free World


Viking 354pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

David Bezmozgis’s first book, Natasha (2004), was a brilliant collection of short stories about a family of Latvian Jews in Canada. His new book – a sad comic novel set over five months in Italy in 1978 – is less successful. It follows the Krasnanskys, Latvian Jews waiting to be accepted by Canada as emigrants from the Soviet Union. In the opening pages, which take place in a railway station in Vienna, they struggle to load twenty items of luggage onto the Rome train while 26-year-old Alec chats up two American students in cut-off jeans. This sets the tone: his wife Polina, his older brother Karl – a former bodybuilder who gets caught up in some shady dealing – and their father Samuil, a retired factory boss whose brother was killed by the Nazis, all play second fiddle to Alec’s philandering, on which the novel’s climax depends.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Full of invention which, at its most pedestrian, is eminently Victorian, and at its most unrestrained wildly imagi… ,
    • 'What in other hands could have been a dry, pedantic account of Christianity’s birth and evolution becomes in Holla… ,
    • RT : One of my favourite literary magazines is celebrating 40 years this year. Here is the September edition of… ,
    • 'Now that the Thames is too fast-flowing to freeze, its spirit’s devotees ... have found other climes for their pri… ,
    • 'Bythell glowers past his till at a world in slow free fall.' on the travails of a second-hand book… ,
    • 'It is a scent of animal wrath, of instinctive need, of brutal life which affects the cultured nostrils of our civi… ,
    • 'The day produced countless stories of chance, of people taking one route or another without realising that the dec… ,