Title: Irina’s Eye
Author: H.W. Freedman
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: H.W. Freedman, Lulu
Summary: from publisher
“Bohemian border with Bavaria, West Germany, 1948– He should have known. If only he had trusted his intuition. That was the problem, telling the difference between intuition and fear, and he was not about to give into fear. There was no time; they had to flee and it had to be in that moment or they might never have another opportunity. They ran into the night.” — Vaclav and Irina, both age fifteen, flee from behind the Iron Curtain. Irina is shot in the back and falls. He goes to help her but as he takes her in his arms another bullet enters her head and at that moment she orders him “Go!”. He puts her down gently and runs. He reaches West Germany, then he travels to Rome and to New York in his quest for enlightenment and freedom from the guilt that haunts him for his soulmate Irina’s fate.
This story has pretty intense and violent start. The reader is thrown straight into the action that defines the rest of the book. We see immediately the intense connection that the main character Vaclav has to Irina, the supposed love of his life. We also very quickly realise the close relationship Vaclav has with his mother. I really liked this closeness and I found the chapter from his mother’s point of view fascinating and emotional. I also found the look at what life was like for the people living during such turbulent and distressing times interesting and full of unique insight.
The parallel timezones worked nicely, I did find the jumping around a little jarring occasionally but overall I thought it gave the reader a good look at how the main character became the dysfunctional person he is in the later years of the timeline. I do wish that there was a little more focus on his life before the escape attempt. So much of the story is focussed on Irina and I wish we had gotten to know a little more about what she was actually like rather than simply Vaclav’s memories of her. Vaclav is obsessed with Irina or perhaps the fantasy of her and I feel that more interaction and exploration of their relationship would have added to the story.
Vaclav himself is an extremely interesting character, but I must confess I found him difficult to like very much. This is not inherently a problem, sometimes characters who are not typically likeable are all the more fascinating because of it. Vaclav seemed unpredictable and a little unstable throughout the narrative which made following him quite exciting and surprising. At times I did find his obsession with Faust a little difficult to understand as it is not a topic I am hugely well versed in. However I did like his extreme attitude to working within the theatre world, he seems to play different roles his whole life (which is something he acknowledges himself) and this makes him all the more intriguing because I never really felt like I was seeing the real him. I did find the way he views his relationships, besides those with his mother and Irina, distasteful and at times disturbing. Saying that I did mostly enjoy reading about his life despite this.
Overall this is a really interesting look at a difficult era of history. It is unlike most books I have read discussing post WW2 life and it is always good to hear something from a new perspective.
I was provided this copy in exchange for an honest review !