This is a novel about Manuel Echaniz, now an old man in Canada, looking back on his life. As the title suggests, he was of Basque stock and brought up in Liverpool.
My main criticism of this book is that although there is likely to be a lot of sadness and death involved in the thoughts of someone so old, the Grim Reaper’s axe seems to be swinging relentlessly throughout. Granted, these immigrants had no easy life but perhaps Helen Forrester could have injected a bit more humour, even of the black variety, into proceedings.
That said, I would not describe this novel as harrowing. And it has many qualities, not least of which it is well written and careful structured, albeit a little conservative in its prose for my own tastes. There’s a nice balance of female andn male character perspectives, too.
This family saga is a convincing portrayal of an immigrant community in the first half of the twentieth century. And there are some glimpses into Basque culture and history. The way that historical events are weaved into the tale works very well.
Three stars out of five may seem a little harsh. Not a light read, but in other ways quite traditionaI, I’d give this novel seven out of ten. And the ending took me somewhat by surprise in spite of all that had gone before.