The clothes on their backs : a novel by Linda Grant

   Regina  Review by:  Regina

Title: The clothes on their backs : a novel

Author:  Linda Grant

Collection:  Adult Fiction

An unusual story of love and loss in many ways, The Clothes On Their Backs is a novel of great depth – Vivien Kovacs is the only child of Hungarian refugees. Timid and mousey, her parents had fortunately escaped their home country only months before the war. They only want to assimilate themselves into the quiet London neighborhood where lonely Vivien grows up – the only child on the block. When a neighboring spinster passes away, Vivien and her mother scoop up the clothing that has been left behind and Vivien begins to identify herself through the material worn on her skin. To her surprise, she also finds a scandalous uncle that her parents never told her about – but then, they never told her anything about their younger days in Hungary or even of other family members. Questioning the boring, quiet lifestyle of her parents, Vivien searches for this outlaw of an uncle that has been labeled a monster of a slumlord – a criminal that has spent many years behind bars, and begins to write his life story – and Vivien finds truth – the reasons for her parents mousiness and her uncle’s greediness.

Vivien says, “The clothes you wear are a metamorphosis. They change you from the outside in. We are trapped with these thick calves or pendulous breasts, our sunken chests, our dropping jowls. A million imperfections mar us. There are deep flaws we are not at liberty to do anything about except under the surgeon’s knife. So the most you can do is put on a new dress, a different tie. We are forever turning into someone else, and should never forget that someone else is always looking.”


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