the observer Sun 22 February 2009
Chris is a fortysomething travelling salesman trapped in a sexless marriage to a wife with "skimmed milk" in her veins. One rainy night in the Winter of Discontent, he breaks with the mundane to pick up a prostitute. Roza, a young Yugoslavian driven on to the street from boredom rather than necessity, demands a lift home. From this inauspicious beginning, an unlikely relationship is forged. Week after week, Chris returns to sit captive in his Scheherazade's dingy basement, listening to her tales of past illegality - from incest to immigration. Although the shifts between Chris's retrospective memoir and Roza's present-tense commentary sometimes jar, this doesn't detract from the pleasure of a novel that celebrates the power of storytelling itself.
the guardian Sat 21 February 2009
Everyone says that they're not the sort of man who goes to prostitutes. But you can tell that Chris, an unhappily married pharmaceutical salesman, really is new to this game when he attempts to pick up a woman who isn't a prostitute at all. Still, Roza, from the former Yugoslavia, has a pretty colourful history and Chris becomes obsessed with it over a course of illicit meetings at her London squat. Incest with a guerrilla fighter leads to lesbian experiments at Young Communist Camp and employment at Bergonzi's Pussycat Hostess Paradise. It's up to the reader to decide how much of this narrative striptease is for real; though Roza's story stands in stark contrast to the lack of eventfulness in Chris's life: "I regret my lack of heroism but I'm damned if I want to do anything about it. I wouldn't want to be a partisan unless I got weekends off and all missions were optional." The fatalistic evocation of a shabby, cold-war Britain is a treat: "Everyone was singing this song called I Will Survive, but not many of us reckoned we would."