Daphne is a 74 year old woman, reserved and tenaciously independent, whose wartime past comes to haunt her in this remarkably accomplished first novel. In the war she worked at the War Office, having to interview italians arrested in dawn raids in London, and had to decide which are/are not fascists and should be interned. As a result, hundreds of italians are embarked on a ship which is torpedoed, and most of them drown. Back in the present, the woman's son is a tv journalist who makes documentaries about wars in far-off places. The novel moves between his coverage of a war in southern republic of the ex-USSR, and his mother's wartime life. His girlfriend, also in TV, starts uncovering fascinating material about the Italians in wartime London, and moves in on his mother. Meanwhile Daphne has also heard from one of the survivors, now in Australia. It 's a compelling exploration of how we edit life, past and present, about how even the smallest actions can reverberate, about how decisions which seem right and understandable at one time and place can be interpreted quite differently in a different time and place. The past is definitely a foreign country. (1999-09-17)
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Daphne is the sort of woman who lives alone because she can "no longer bear conversations". She has an orderly mind and she's proud of it. At 74 her faculties remain as sharp as they were 50 years ago when she worked in the War Office, interviewing suspected Fifth Columnists. By 1940s standards her work there was dutiful beyond reproach, but civil rights standards have moved on since then. When Rachel, her favourite son Oliver's girlfriend, suggests she take part in a programme about internment and deportations during the war, Daphne clams up. She knows better then to volunteer for trial by television. Even so, the clam of her self-imposed retreat has been disturbed and, just when she needs him most, Oliver disappears to film the latest war in a southern republic of the former USSR.
Francine Stock's first novel reads like a thriller and glitters with acidly observed asides. Nationalism, language and communication in an age of satellite technology are three important themes, and a former Newsnight reporter and presenter, Stock is well placed to explore a fourth: the tricks and vanities of modern-day journalism. Rachel doesn't really know anything about the Second World War, Oliver's interpretation of the conflict he is filming alters with each new development and with hindsight Daphne's work looks sinister. But Stock knows better than to judge her characters and, in this thorough and accomplished first novel, notions of right and wrong are always subject to debate. --Kate BinghamReview:
""A Foreign Country" is about the past and its effects on the present.... Stock writes with cool intelligence tinged with sympathy and humour." - "The Times""A poised and impressive first novel." - "Mail on Sunday"
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Book Description VINTAGE, LONDON, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0099273500