Troubador The Barefoot Road

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Interview with Steve Lockie

Released: 28/04/2018

ISBN: 9781788038638

eISBN: 9781789010459

Format: Paperback/eBook

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The Barefoot Road


Vivienne Vermes' debut novel is a gripping read which will appeal to readers who enjoy historical fiction, thrillers and evocative themes. The book begins with a young woman found, emaciated and unconscious, in the mountains surrounding a village in Transylvania. When it is discovered that she is of an ethnic group which was violently driven out of the regions many years before, old wounds are reopened as the villagers are reminded of their role in the bloodshed.

An uneasy peace is maintained until a young married man falls in love with the girl, and tension begin to rise within the community. The mysterious disappearance of a child causes this tension to mount into hysteria, driving the story to its chilling outcome.

"A book born out of lockdown. . .every painting found a poem, each poem found a painting."
An artist in Israel and a poet in Paris find echoes in each other's work.

Vivienne: Poetry Reading in the Blue Belle Cafe in Penge on Sat Oct 7th, 2017, as from 7.30 p.m. as part of the Penge Poets' event.

Reading in Paris with the Paris 17 and a Half Minutes' Writing group in December 2017. Exact date and venue TBA.

Book launch in Paris, 19h30, May 25th, 2018, Berkeley Books, 8 rue Casimir Delavigne, Paris.

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I received this as a review copy from NetGalley. I'm a big fan of historical fiction and this certainly didn't disappoint.

It was also refreshing to read a novel set in Transylvania that doesn't involve vampires, it does still show the fears and superstitions that were rife at the time and how easily peoples opinions can be swayed.

A very good read and I would definitely recommend it to all historical fiction fans.

by Alan Taylor

This book is fabulous! I just finished it and I still have tears in my eyes. Wonderful imagery and poetic prose but best of all is the haunting story! The author is truly a teller of tales. Once I started reading the book, it was impossible to put it down. When I got close to the end, I read slowly slowly slowly so that the book would keep on going…

by Marval Grabner

I've just finished reading The Barefoot Road. I enjoyed it: as an engrossing story; as an account of the clash between different views of the world: those who are welcoming and those who are afraid of others; and as an evocation of a lost rural way of life where the division between human and the natural world was less obvious - people as part of nature rather than separate from it. Vivienne Vermes has a great storyteller's gift!

by Alan Howe

I finished reading "The Barefoot Road" yesterday. It really is a remarkable piece of work. It is incredibly evocative, full of astonishing imagery and so rooted in another time (I imagined the late nineteenth century), another culture, yet also for me mirrored that almost timeless and placeless sense of the village as both a haven and a trap - and a place where small minds can curdle with enmity for that which they don't understand.
They talk about "willing suspension of disbelief" in a movie or a book, and for me I utterly experienced that. For the characters were so real. There was also a great structure to it with that slow but sure, and increasing in tempo, building to the violent and cathartic climax. A great piece of work.

by Stuart White, journalist, novelist and screenwriter

It's an amazing book, full of humanity's vulnerability, love and hate.

by Jane Allen-Brown

This book is poetic and timeless and shows exactly why VIvienne Vermes is an award-winning novelist and poet. It will become a classic of European literature.

by Martin S of "That's Books"

“The book is poetic and timeless and shows exactly why Vivienne Vermes is an award- winning novelist and poet. It will become a classic of European literature.”

by That's Books

This book is not a comfortable read. It is quite graphic and earthy in its portrayal of life in this small village and does not flinch from descriptions of sex and violence. I was in the writer’s thrall from beginning to end and left unsettled and stirred and moved, saddened and enraged and altered by the experience of reading.

by A Little Book Problem

“The Barefoot Road evinces a poet’s sensitivity towards language and a dramatist’s understanding of plot...This novel stays with the reader, resounding in the daily news where the fear of what is not understood soon transforms into dogmatism and intolerance.”
– Dr. Dawn-Michelle Baude, book reviewer, Huffington Post

by Dawn-Michelle Baude

Taking the guise of a humble, unassuming fable, I believe that The Barefoot Road is a critical social commentary that has huge relevance, and is deserving of a great deal of recognition for its depth of perception and insight into human frailty and limitation. We are all residents of that Transylvanian village. We are all the outsider.
Review from Jan’s Book Buzz, bookblogger

by Jan's Book Buzz

The story is beautifully timeless. It is historical fiction, but could have taken place at pretty much any time in any place and, sadly, is still perfectly relevant to the present day as well. This is wonderful historical fiction.

by Stephanie of Litflits

The Barefoot Road is a book that holds a sinister air from the very first page, although it is hard to say whether this is due to the remoteness of the village, the rawness of the landscape or the actions of the villagers and their massacre of nomadic tribe.
Something about the author’s writing set me on edge before anything had even happened and left me with a chill in my bones. The vivid imagery brings the stark landscape to life as local gossip and politics are intensified by the isolation of village both by the weather and by the terrain that surrounds it.
This is a book that is scary in its honesty, showing how one power hungry person can so quickly whip up fear and hatred in otherwise good people, creating a mob mentality that leads to shocking brutality.
Review by Mai’s Musings, Bookblogger

by Mai's Musings

I was reminded of books like Joanne Harris’ Chocolat and Toni Morrison’s Beloved.
Although this was not easy to read, mentally or emotionally, it really resonated with me and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone looking for a well-written story about division and racial tension.

by Bookshine and Readbows

This is a beautifully written book, almost poetic in its language, and graphical in its depiction of a time, not that long ago, where fear, suspicion and wild accusations could change the path of history.

A great read, written with real sensitivity, it portrays the human condition at its best and its worst.

by Pashtpaws, Breakaway Reviewers

I wouldn’t just recommend this book; I would also shout from the rooftops! If you love a book set in a time where people were afraid of differences and in a time where superstitions were believed, then look no further.
I simply cannot recommend this book enough! This was a very good read; one which has lasted with me way past turning the final page.

by Stephanie Geary Writing From the Heart

The story is beautifully timeless. It is historical fiction, but could have taken place at pretty much any time in any place and, sadly, is still perfectly relevant to the present day as well. We see an isolated rural community turn from being open and supportive to closed and aggressive when their fears are maliciously manipulated by a power-hungry man. Vivienne Vermes takes time to fully describe the Transylvanian setting and to realise each of her characters so I could easily understand why each of them made certain choices in the second half of the novel. The pace is cleverly increased throughout so, after a shocking introductory chapter, we are lulled by gentle depictions of friendly village life. I appreciated how this allows readers to 'forget' the initial violence in much the same way as the villagers themselves chose to 'forget' what had been done by the previous generation.

by Litflicks, Stephanie

The Barefoot Road is a haunting historical fiction, which I could not put down. I was so intrigued when I saw the synopsis for The Barefoot Road, I just had to read it. And I am so glad I did. It is so beautifully written and there is a real haunting quality to the story too. I read it in just one day.
I found myself so enchanted by the story and the characters. The writing style was beautiful and there were so many gorgeous quotes woven throughout the text “He moved towards her and kissed the top of her head, smoothing her hair with his hands, as if to make everything the way it should be, and rarely was, except in moments that vanished like the pitter of rain.”
The Barefoot Road describes life in a mountain village in such vivid detail it is both beautiful, with its sense of community and brutal, with the mob mentality that can overtake a community with devastating results. The events of the plot quickly escalate in the second half of the book, almost to the point of chaos.
The wide range of characters evoked all sorts of emotions - they were all so vivid and well written. It was heartbreaking to watch as the village unravels and the innocent acts of children could be used to justify evil.
The ending of the book was a heartbreaking and haunting as many of the darker moments of the book, and the sense of loss was profound.

by Odd Socks and Lollipops

I had heard “never judge a book by its cover.” But it would not be wrong to say that you can do this with this book, the story is as brilliant as the cover is beautiful.
The cover of The Barefoot Road, a beautiful painting decorated with different colors, which attracts the book.
The silent dark night, the flames of fire rising from inside the house, and blood flowing on the road, on one hand fear-less couple Everything that creates an eagerness to turn the pages of the book.
The title of the book, The Barefoot Road, is as appealing as its cover.
The blurb of the story is described as ‘a fable for our time about racial division, set in historical Transylvania’. The story begins with a young woman found, emaciated and unconscious, in the mountains surrounding a village in Transylvania.
This story is a critical social commentary which has huge relevance for today’s audience. The language is simple and lucid. Narration is cool and engaging throughout the book. The pace is perfect - neither too slow or fast.
Recommended to all the book lovers.

by ashirespondingtolife

The prose and attention to detail is magnificent. The descriptions are vivid and authentic. Each character is well drawn and very human.

by Hellen Hollick, Discovering Diamonds

‘’Curse the funeral, curse the fact we have to die, curse the fact we have to love, curse the night and curse the day.’’

A dark night is violently lit by torches burning bright. Screams, people running, cries demanding blood. In a village in Transylvania, people belonging to a different ethnicity are violently driven away from their homes and their land, victims of an incomprehensible hatred. The culprits succeed in driving the Others away. For a few years, they live in a fictional, oppressive peace, guided by superstitions and corrupted priests. Until comeuppance knocks on their doors. One by one...The Barefoot Road is the definition of exquisite Folklore Literature.

‘’She journeyed past haunted trees, waving their twings towards the sky, fingers reaching for nothing but cloud and vapour.
Then she arrived.
A place of nothing. Of complete quiet, without light or dark, hope or dread. A place where the soul drank and was drunk.
Here, she asked the spirits for help. By the sighing in the branches, she knew she was heard.’’

Vivienne Vermes makes excellent use of the rich, mystical tradition of the Romanian legends and draws parallels between Folklore and the theme of racism. She creates characters that have a basis on archetypes of fables but turns them into fully fleshed-out protagonists. A mysterious girl who brings change and danger. A wise old woman who is deeply connected to the pagan past of her land and has paid a heavy price for the villagers’ lust for blood and their blindness to the different. A man, cursed with a despicable wife, who decides to follow his heart, disregarding the consequences. A corrupted priest. A community that justifies the violence of the mob through tradition and legends. Many of them stuck into religious prejudices and only a few are wise enough to understand Faith as a possible source of hope and love.

The imagery of this novel is truly outstanding. The customs of Lazarica’s day, the dances, the ferocious feelings of love and faith and enmity. The firm connection to the land and the haunting folklore of Romania. I come from the Balkan region so I know the lore of each country and I could smell and feel the air, I could ‘’see’’ the unique Balkan beauty. It is a novel that I would characterize as brutal, merciless and magnificent in its simplicity with writing that is confident, poetic, violent and whimsical.

‘’The cawing of a crow brought her back to the road, and the cross, and the day. The visions of her mind receded until they were patches of light fading behind her closed eyes. When she opened them, the wind had dropped, the sun was high in the sky, and on the ground were three people holding hands.’’

by Amalia

Vivienne Vermes

Vivienne Vermes is a British writer and actress of Hungarian and Irish descent who has lived in Paris for thirty years. She has published four collections of poetry: "Sand Woman" (Rebus), "Passages" and "Metamorphoses" (L'Harmattan), and a CD, "When the World Stops Spinning". She has performed her work all over Europe, and run creative writing workshops in Greece, Romania and France. She is winner of the Paragram Poetry Prize (2013) and Petite Prose Prize (2016), and of the Mail on Sunday's Best Opening to a Novel competition as well as Flash 500's prize for short fiction. As an actress, she recently played Queen Elizabeth II in the French comedy film "Les Profs 2", and Judge Sarah Hughes in "Jackie".

Vivienne Vermes

The Barefoot Road cover painting by Murray Simpson
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