FF’s Star Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Somewhere in Hackney, London, there is an Immortal Bard worshiping and George Clooney hating middle aged chap named Berthold Sidebottom who is unmarried and lives in his mother’s house. If that unusual last name of his doesn’t get you laughing like a good old Jim Carrey flick right now, you needn’t worry, because bestselling author of A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian will have you laughing from beginning to end with her humorous contemporary novel The Lubetkin Legacy.
Berthold Sidebottom’s mother had told him before she died that he should “not let them take the flat!” Not knowing any other way to adhere to her wishes, he came up with an unusual, if not ingenious plan. He convinces an elderly Ukrainian lady to impersonate his mother so that he can keep the flat. While he gets some rather close calls in the days to come, a new neighbor of Kenyan origin named Violet starts filling his thoughts.
Alternating between first and third person narratives and setting this novel in Hackney, London, the author creates a world where plenty laughable things can happen at any time of a normal day. You might find yourself at a funeral service that is bound to be memorable for all the wrong reasons or witness a man chain himself to a tree while professionals are hired to cut it down with chainsaws. Readers are hardly left with a dull moment.
For struggling actor Berthold, who is named after Berthold Lubetkin, the man who designed the Mad Yurt flat, there is nothing more enjoyable in life than a coffee from a nearby coffee shop named Luigi’s. No matter how much Berthold tries to set the record straight, Inna Alfandari, an expert in all dishes “gabolki kasobki and salotki” and an, minus English, four language speaking elderly woman who is to impersonate his mother, firmly believes that he is “homosexy”.
Thanks to a second thing that Berthold inherits from his mother after she dies, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud whenever Flossie the bird had the unwarranted gal to shout “God is dead!” at times that were sometimes extremely well placed, much to the chagrin of Berthold and Inna. Inna’s stories of times and places long past also serves to broaden our view of this interesting and suspicious elderly woman that Berthold finds himself having to put with.
Perhaps a bit too early on in the novel, another resident of Berthold Lubetkin’s Mad Yurt flat starts asking questions about Berthold’s new housemate. While lots of funny stuff happens with Berthold, Violet’s story tends to be less waggish. Having started her new London job full of confidence and hungry to accrue contracts like a through winner, she comes to a point of doubting whether it is what she truly desires. Meanwhile, more funny stuff is a chapter away.
A book about one man’s plan to get his name placed on the tenancy of his deceased mother’s flat is way more entertaining than I originally assumed it would be. By all means, enter this world of loco neighbors and pet birds that drive their owners even more loco than they already are. Marina Lewycka shows readers that there are more to homes than bricks and concrete in this comedic tale of love and destiny.
Free paperback received from Penguin Random House SA.
Date Published: May 5, 2016