Hello and welcome to my surprise bonus post for the week! Today I am so excited to be doing a blog tour with Rachel’s Random Resources for The Black Madonna of Derby by Joanna Czechowska*. Thank you so much to Rachel for having me on :)
*All opinions are my own!
During and after the Second World War, 200,000 Poles were given leave to remain in the UK as thanks for their help during the conflict-this book is a fictional account of just one of those families.Set during the 1960s and1970s,The Black Madonna of Derby traces the story of the Baran family living in a provincial town in England. Their seemingly ordinary existence hides secrets of past betrayal, madness, and tragedy.
The story focuses on three generations: the elderly grandmother whose proud Polish patriotism hides dark events from the past that affect the present, the mother whose tries to meld her past life in war-torn Poland and Germany with her new life in England and the granddaughter who lives a double life culturally and linguistically-Polish at home and English outside.
The swinging sixties in London is vividly recreated, as is the hardship of life under communism in thePoland of that time. This book is unique in that there are no other novels dealing with the story of second generation Poles in the UK. It is a story that deserves to be told, a story of a group of people who have had little attention in the literature. Listen to what they have to say.
I don’t usually gravitate toward historical works, but when I saw that this one was about a Polish family, I knew I had to check it out! As someone whose entire family was born in Poland, and who attended Polish school for 12 or so years, I definitely wanted to read about that perspective because I actually haven’t read any fiction books with Polish main characters (that I know of).
Immediately, there was so much that I recognized. From the food, to the Polish words, to the kids attending Polish school, among other things! I also loved that it was a multigenerational story, and so we got to see a bit of everyone’s history. It was so fascinating to learn!
One fault that I had with the book was that it took me a little while to get into. There were a lot of characters to keep track of, and I was getting a bit confused here and there. However, about an hour into the audiobook, I finally felt comfortable with everyone, and could differentiate the storylines.
Once I was fully immersed in this story, I did not want to put it down. I related to each of the characters in different ways, and it almost felt like I was a part of their family myself. This book was filled with tons of twists and turns- there were a lot of things that I didn’t see coming. This story was so layered and filled with history and pain and hurt.
It was honestly one of the most emotional reads of the year for me, and I will be thinking about it for a really long time, I can already tell!
My only other issue was with the narrator- I felt like she didn’t really do the book justice, as it felt a little too bland at times that should have been read with more enthusiasm. Also, some of her pronunciation of the Polish words or names wasn’t too great, so I wish that a Polish narrator had been chosen.
This book truly deserves a piece of my heart and will be living in my mind rent free. I loved it.
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
If you want to purchase the book for yourself, you can do so here!
What is your nationality or ethnicity? Have you ever read any books with characters with the same background as you?