Booker International 2021 – The Pear Field by Nana Ekvtimishvili
Booker International Longlist Book 4 rated by panellist Tracy.
The Pear Field
Translated by Elizabeth Heighway from Georgian
Published by Peirene Press
Details from official Booker Site:
Lela knows two things: her history teacher must die and she must start a new life beyond the pear field. On the outskirts of Tbilisi, in a newly independent Georgia, is the Residential School for Intellectually Disabled Children – or, as the locals call it, the School for Idiots. Abandoned by their parents, the pupils here receive lessons in violence and neglect. At 18, Lela is old enough to leave, but with nowhere to go she stays and plans, both for her own escape and for the future she hopes to give Irakli, a young boy at the school. When a couple from the USA decide they want to adopt a child, Lela is determined to do everything she can to help Irakli make the most of this chance.
About the Author
Nana Ekvtimishvili, born in 1978 in Tbilisi, Georgia, is a writer and film director. She studied screenwriting and drama at Potsdam-Babelsberg. In 2013, with her partner Simon Groß, she directed the feature film In Bloom, which premiered at the 63rd Berlinale, where it won the CICAE Award. It went on to win numerous awards at festivals in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Paris, Los Angeles and Sarajevo, and was also selected as Georgia’s entry for the 2013 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The International Federation of Film Critics said it heralded a ‘rebirth for Georgian cinema’. Her latest film, My Happy Family, was released at the Sundance Film Festival in 2017. Published in 2015, The Pear Field is Ekvtimishvili’s first novel. It was awarded the Ilia State University prize for the best Georgian novel published in 2014-15; the Saba Literary Prize for best debut; and the Litera Prize, also for the best debut, given by the Writers’ House and the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Georgia. It has already been published in German and in Dutch to much critical acclaim.
Tracy’s Thoughts: The Pear Field is an orchard of pear trees that yield a lot of pears, but they taste horrible. The orphanage next door has children who are hard to place. Lela was one of these children, but she has aged out, and now works for the orphanage, hoping to help them get homes.
This is a short novel- rife with analogy- the Pear Field can be seen as a place of moral decay, within the grounds of a school that accepts children who are abandoned by their parents (at least one of which is shown to be morally corrupt), and given to a school of little hope, staffed by a deputy head who sexually abuses his charges. Add in that it’s set in the Post-Soviet era- there’s plenty of symbolism here.
Yet there is also hope. Lela is an interesting, post-Gorbachev Robin Hood- she is willing to take the children to steal cherries from the nearby farmer, and prostitute herself, but the money is used for the children. She stays to help protect the smaller children from the bigger ones, and from the predatory adults.
I liked this novel- the bleak setting and situations tinged with hope- feels like a Dickens novel, but a lot shorter.
Writing quality: 4/5
Character Development: 4/4
Plot Development: 3/4
Overall Enjoyment: 2/2
At Night all Blood is Black 18/20
The Dangers of Smoking in Bed 18/20
The Pear Field 17/20
The Employees 16/20
Have you read this one? What did you think?