Saturday, 22 September 2018

The Barefoot Road by Vivienne Vermes

The Barefoot Road by Vivienne Vermes
Published by Matador on the 2nd April 2018.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy via Rachel's Random Resources

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository
Amazon US / Amazon UK

Add The Barefoot Road to your Goodreads

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.

I chose to join this blog tour for Vivienne Vermes' first novel The Barefoot Road because I was intrigued by its Romanian location and I love the naive cover art style. 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. There is, however, always a sense of menace and foreboding just off the page which gradually encroaches as innocent (and less-than-innocent) actions are wilfully misunderstood.

The Barefoot Road is a slow-burn novel which relies on the reader's anticipation for much of its tension. I don't think it would appeal to action fans, but I particularly enjoyed the dark atmosphere. The narrative almost feels like a traditional folktale brought vividly to life with evocative descriptions. Perhaps the final hysterical disaster all happened a little bit too fast for my taste - there were lots of overlapping strands to keep track of - but otherwise this is wonderful historical fiction.

Meet the author

Vivienne Vermes is a writer and actress of Irish and Hungarian descent who divides her time between Paris and London. She has published four collections of poetry: Sand Woman, Metamorphoses, Passages and When the World Stops Spinning, and has performed her work in festivals throughout Europe. She is winner of the Piccadilly Poets’ award, the Mail on Sunday’s Best Opening of a Novel competition, as well as Flash 500s prize for short prose and the Paragram national competition for best poem and “petite prose”. She has taught creative writing in universities in Transylvania, and runs a writers’ workshop in Paris.

As an actress, she has played roles in a number of French films, including Les Trois Frères, Le Retour and in Les Profs 2 in which she portrayed Queen Elizabeth II.  Her voice also warns passengers on the Paris metro to “Mind the gap”.

The Barefoot Road is her first novel.

Author links: 

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Vivienne Vermes / Historical fiction / Books from France


  1. That sounds good. I appreciate you letting us know about this one.

    1. I was pleasantly surprised by Vermes' writing and story :-)

  2. I think that sounds cool how it makes the reader kind of forget the violence but then builds up with a slow burn to the ending. And that's some unique cover art!

    1. It's a fab image isn't it? And fits perfectly with the story