*I received a free copy of this book with thanks to the author and Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources blog tours. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: Vivienne Vermes’ debut novel is a gripping read which will appeal to readers who enjoy historical fiction, thrillers and evocative themes. The book begins with a young woman found, emaciated and unconscious, in the mountains surrounding a village in Transylvania. When it is discovered that she is of an ethnic group which was violently driven out of the regions many years before, old wounds are reopened as the villagers are reminded of their role in the bloodshed.
An uneasy peace is maintained until a young married man falls in love with the girl, and tension begin to rise within the community. The mysterious disappearance of a child causes this tension to mount into hysteria, driving the story to its chilling outcome.
Let me just start by saying how much I love the book cover! It’s not often that I care much one way or another about what a book looks like, as I tend to dive right on in to the words, but in this case I was absolutely enthralled by the bright, bold colours and rough, rustic innocence of the style. It really brought to mind old-fashioned fairy tales and the deep, bloody magic they promise. And just like a fable of old, The Barefoot Road tells a story of the dark and light within us, along with the blood and bones.
This is a story of us and them, because they are different, worse, better (damn them!), the same; the shame, fear, jealousy, desire steeping in a sadly familiar brew of poisonous hatred and suspicion.
Paraschiva’s simple son brings trouble down the mountain to her door in the form of a strange woman with beauty in her form and sorrow in her heart. The newcomer stirs the rustic village and the storm clouds build overhead, until inevitably someone, something must break.
Or maybe, not. Perhaps the trouble was already there in the village, in the hearts all along, and Mariuca’s only contribution was her beauty and the joy she found in life, so at odds with responsible, respectable village life. Maybe it was that a village man loved her and the village children emulated her. Or just the golden hue of her skin.
There are two sides to every tragic story and Vermes here shows us both. There are no heroes and villains, sirens and angels; just human nature at its best and (more often) worst.
I loved the setting and characterisations and really felt that the author brought the little, closed community to life. Though set in an unspecified past in Transylvania, the action could really be transplanted to any place or time and still be current and recognisable, which made me feel very sad. It seems that these bloody cycles in history repeat themselves and no lessons are learnt from them, as we are seeing again in the present political world climate.
Vermes painfully and accurately skewers how quick we are to turn on one another and the hypocrisy of accepting the ‘right kind’ of strangers whilst heaping blame on whichever flavour of the month is the ‘wrong kind’. However this is not a preachy, po-faced lecture, but a beautifully entertaining and ominously tense story. I was reminded of books like Joanne Harris’ Chocolat and Toni Morrison’s Beloved.
Although this was not easy to read, mentally or emotionally, it really resonated with me and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone looking for a well-written story about division and racial tension.
Before it happened, nobody could have imagined it. After it happened, many denied it. Others said it would never happen again.
– Vivienne Vermes, The Barefoot Road
The Barefoot Path is available to buy on Amazon right now, and please don’t forget to check out the other stops on this blog tour (poster below) for more great content and reviews!