Children of Our Age By A.M. Bakalar

I was pleased to have won this thought-provoking novel in a Goodreads giveaway. The book tells the story of Polish expats trafficking other Polish people into the UK for benefits fraud. I particularly enjoyed the character development and the perspective from which the story is told. I would have liked a little more suspense. I found myself longing for the authorities to actually do something to catch the perpetrators and help the victims. I got a little confused when I reached page 237 of the book. The author refers to Karol singing in church when I think it should have been Kamil. Nevertheless, I thought this book was an enjoyable read. 0993377335 A serviceable thriller from the estimable Jantar publishing that explores interactions within the Polish community in the UK. There are overtones of organised crime as well as psychopathology. Themes including lifestyle, food, religion and longing for home are up front. Unfortunately, the copyeditor missed a section where two of the characters’ names are confused but for the most part, it reads well. 0993377335

Through an exploration of modern-day human trafficking, A. M. Bakalar’s unflinching yet ultimately compassionate second novel, Children of Our Age, confronts the physical and emotional carnage that results from an inability to relinquish the chains of the past...

Children of Our Age is an ambitious work of great scope and power. While the book’s arresting subject matter makes it very much a story of today, the narrative transcends its era. The book is a searing exploration of the ways in which people value and degrade one another, and of how moments of impulse and whim, rather than carefully reasoned action, can change the course of our lives. 0993377335

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Karol and his wife are the rising stars of the Polish community in London but Karol is a ruthless entrepreneur whose fortune is built on the backs of his fellow countrymen. The Kulesza brothers, mentally unstable Igor and his violent brother Damian, dream about returning to Poland one day. A loving couple, Mateusz and Angelika, believe against all odds that good things will happen to people like them. Gradually, all of these lives become dramatically entwined, and each of them will have to decide how far they are willing to go in pursuit of their dreams.

Insightful and unforgiving, CHILDREN OF OUR AGE is a deeply human and timely story of Polish immigrants. Sweeping between their past in Poland and their present in Britain, this electrifying novel explores the ways unlikely encounters transform lives, the limits of loyalty, and love. Children of Our Age

I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway so thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy.

I really enjoyed this book. I had no idea what I was getting myself into with this story, but it's a good one. A multi-faceted narrative amidst some brutal characterisation makes this a compelling read. A story very much centred on hope, redemption and love, this book is definitely a page-turner.

I'd definitely recommend this book. 0993377335 See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits

I enjoyed Children Of Our Age as a literary fiction novel. The comment on its cover about it being a thriller I would question because I didn't feel it had the degree of suspense necessary for that genre although there are certainly tense moments throughout the story. Where I felt Bakalar excels is in her portrayals of motivated and believable people, several of whom I didn't actually like, but all of whom I was keen to spend time with and I wanted to know how their individual stories both linked and panned out. Karol is an amazing creation - an intensely focused sociopath who, it appears, genuinely cannot understand what it wrong with his exploitation of his countrymen's dreams and naivete. The contrast between his callousness and the violence of his, for want of a better word, henchmen, the Kulesza brothers, is an interesting facet to the story. In a way I could stomach Karol's actions more easily because his motivation is practical and pragmatic rather than sadistic, not that that makes much difference to the women and men caught up in his deceptions.

Children Of Our Age is set within a Polish community in London and has a strong sense of both countries, however the storyline itself is very much about human nature, gullibility and greed. It transcends any particular nationality as people across the globe are equally as nasty to each other as our protagonists here. There are several violently shocking moments so I wouldn't recommend this novel to particularly sensitive souls, but if you're ok with reading about brutal scenes, this is a thought-provoking and rewarding work. 0993377335 An excellent novel of social realism. It is one of the rare novels of the 21st century that carries on with the tradition of the great social realists of the 19th century, and then into the 20th century with Upton Sinclair and Steinbeck...and then the tradition kind of lost steam as many novelists turned inward rather than addressing broad societal problems. Here is a novel of people leading lives of quiet desperation, one that illustrates the injustices of economic inequality, and that focuses on the way it is so very easy for those who have a little to exploit those who have nothing at all.

I keep thinking about this novel and wanting people to read it for an entirely different reason, too. Even though the novel is entirely clear-sighted about how economic disparity can drive people to behave inhumanely toward one another, it treats every character with such dignity. And it treats the reader with dignity too. The story is shaped toward leaving the reader with empathy and hope. Reading it made me think deeply about the choices authors make, about how to treat their characters, and how to treat their readers. So while the story is harsh I never lost sight of the humanity of these characters. My connection with them as I read left me thoughtful about how I interact with the world and what ways I want to behave in it. That, to me, is the best thing fiction can do. 0993377335 A breath of unexpected happiness

There is a stereotypical view of Polish immigrants to Britain, and I have unwittingly subscribed to it, that they are skilled and efficient workers, who have contributed positively to the country’s life and economy. No doubt there is much truth in that view, but this powerful novel presents a rather different narrative.

Here is a bleak portrayal of exploitation, brutality, treachery and criminality, centred squarely on Poles and by Poles. This is a gritty and intelligent thriller, but no conventional one. Filled with examples of criminality, it conforms to no common description of a crime novel. The narrative focuses unrelentingly on those who conceive their crimes, those who enforce them and those who suffer because of them. All are Polish. The British authorities, however sympathetic, are remarkable only by their lack of effectiveness.

What raises Children of our Age into a higher plane is how the author delineates the protagonists’ personalities, characters and family histories: the Kulesza brothers, brutal thugs on the one hand, but ultimately with redeeming human qualities; Mateusz and Angelika, a hardworking and religious family, grateful to the opportunities provided by the host country, but failing to thrive, drawn into a whirlpool of crime; above all the upwardly mobile Karol, an exponent of capitalism in all its worst manifestations, a man without conscience, utterly selfish, the evil of exploitation in human form. But more, Karel has asthma, a lover, a home life. He watches television and imagines having children. These traits of a common and shared humanity make his behaviour even more frightening.

The book’s title is shared with a Polish poem, which begins ‘We are children of our age/ it’s a political age’. This is a political novel in so many senses of the word. A breath of unexpected happiness is all that can be hoped for. 0993377335 Hmmmm. 2.5? Certainly seems to accurately portray a modern white immigrant and cultural experience. But, I wasn’t really pulled in by the characters. And jheesh does it just end badly. Absolutely no one is happy in the end, or - the reader can’t necessarily feel happy for them because of their past choices. And one of the main characters is killed off, but almost in passing, during the second to last chapter. But perhaps these awful lives are the point? Even the family that’s working hard and trying to be happy can’t be happy in the end. If so, that’s depressing.
And the editorial mistakes thruout on this edition (starting on the second page of text!) were distracting. Several times characters’ names were mixed up b/w Karol (the main character - a 30-something human trafficker) and Kamil (a child with only a bit part). 0993377335