Monday, February 6, 2023

Homelands: The History of a Friendship by Chitra Ramaswamy (5-Star Read)

 Homelands: The History of a Friendship by Chitra Ramaswamy
Published by Canongate
ISBN 9781838852696

In 1939, 15-year-old Heinz Martin Wuga, later known as Henry, arrives in the UK from Nuremburg as part of the Kindertransport program. After some exceedingly traumatic experiences, he settles in Scotland, where he meets his future wife, Ingrid, who is also a Kindertransportee.

A few decades later, an Indian couple immigrates from Bangalore to the UK, where they start a family. One of their daughters is the author of this book. She grows up and becomes a journalist. In 2011, she is assigned an interview with Henry and Ingrid. There is an instant rapport between them and a friendship quickly blossoms. With her assignment over and the close friendship deepening (they come to see one another as adopted grandparents/grandchild), she continues to talk to them about their life stories and starts to see similar themes emerging between their experiences, those of her parents and her own. Eventually, she realizes that this book is taking shape. And a fine book it is.

This seems like an ambitious book—as the subtitle says, it is the history of a friendship. It’s more than that, though. It’s also family histories, political history, life story, memoir, and a history of relationships—both that between the author and the Wugas, but also the relationship the author has with literature, in particular the novel Austerlitz by William Sebald, which runs through the book. Ramaswamy deftly weaves together multiple strands of thought to create an engrossing narrative. There is a lot here and in the hands of a less skillful writer, things could get clunky and confusing very quickly, but they don’t. The writing itself is beautiful, as is the story of this friendship. I was absorbed in both the stories and the writing from the start and this continued straight through to the end. I highly recommend this book—definitely 5+ stars.

I received a copy of the e-book from NetGalley and Canongate Books in exchange for a review. I thank them and the author.


My name is Erika. said...

This sounds like an interesting read. And how fun that you get a copy of the book to read simply by agreeing to write a review That's a nice exchange. Happy new week.

Brenda said...

Sounds intriguing

Shari Burke said...

It's definitely a great read. I loved it.

Vicki said...

Sounds interesting, I'm glad you loved it!

Shari Burke said...

Me, too :-)

Lowcarb team member said...

I have to say this sounds such an interesting read.
I enjoyed reading your review.

All the best Jan

Shari Burke said...

Thanks, Jan. It was fascinating in many ways :-)

NanaDiana said...

WOW! This sounds like a really good book. I love books that make you feel like you are looking into someone's life. I hope you have a wonderful week, Shari. Hugs- Diana

Shari Burke said...

It's a fine piece of work! :-)

Rostrose said...

Dear Shari,
that sounds like a great book with well-woven life stories and seasoned with interesting contemporary history. Apparently (unfortunately) it's not yet available in German, but I'll make a mental note of it.
ALL THE BEST from Austria, Traude

Shari Burke said...

Hopefully it will be translated one day! And no worries about the comment mix-up--it's Monday, after all ;-)

Rostrose said...

Oh yes, I hope it, too.
That's true, dear Shari - and today is Monday again. I hope you are fine!
All the best,