Thursday, 27 February 2020

The Girl From Nowhere by Eliska Tanzer

The Girl from Nowhere by Eliska Tanzer
Published in the UK by Mirror Books on the 13th February 2020.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For fans of Educated, this is the remarkable true story of a girl from a Romani ghetto in search of a better life.

'My mother's side of the family are Romani. Gypsies. No baby-snatching and tambourines, just resilient souls and richly coloured skin. I look most like them, with my brown eyes and scars. I don't have the richly coloured skin, though. Instead of deep bronze or golden ochre, I came out the colour of sunflower oil and, thanks to childhood malnutrition followed by years of low iron levels, I'm now the shade of an off-brand Simpson.'

Eliska Tanzer is a dreamer.
Born into a family of prostitutes in a Romani ghetto, she grows up in squalid conditions, with no running water, no education, and no future. Desperate to make her own way in the world, Eliska sets in motion a chain of events that will lead her to England, to school, and to within inches of her dreams. But the brutalities of her new life threaten to turn the dream into a nightmare. This is her story. A true story of resilience, determination, and hunger to learn. A story of a girl on the brink.

Eliska Tanzer's memoir of her life growing up as one of an outcast people in Slovakia is a stark reminder of how unequal opportunities can be, not only on a global scale but within countries and then towns. Ancestry or skin colour should not be the factors which decide a person's future practically from their birth, but all too often this is still the case and, other than for a quirk of fate, I would never have read Tanzer's searingly honest memoir because she would never have had the opportunity to write it. She quite possibly would not even have been able to write.

While The Girl From Nowhere is a shocking story of grim family circumstances, it is in no way a depressing read. Tanzer captures the vivacity and determination of her Gypsy family roots and relationships, and I did love how she captured her mother's character. Lenka is heartless, selfish and abusive towards her daughter so not an empathic woman by any account, but the more I learned about the Zlatkov family, the more I could understand how Lenka's own history drove her behaviour towards Eliska particularly, but also towards everyone else who failed to get out of her way swiftly enough.

I haven't yet read Tara Westover's memoir, Educated, so I can't comment on how well The Girl From Nowhere might appeal to Educated fans. I would recommend Eliska's story to readers of inspirational memoirs though, and to people who appreciate tales of succeeding against all the odds. The Girl From Nowhere is a strong read and Tanzer doesn't often shy away from unpalatable details, yet she still manages to retain an appealing dry humour and has a good sense of her strengths and weaknesses. Even having now read her story, I still can't really begin to imagine how difficult it was for Tanzer to repeatedly pick herself up, metaphorically and actually, and keep striving for her goal. That she did is amazing and I am grateful that she also has the strength of mind to share this story with us.

Etsy Find!
by El Relicari in
Alicante, Spain

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Books by Eliska Tanzer / Biography and memoir / Books from Slovakia


  1. I love covers like that, gray with a splash of color.

  2. I really like the cover! I have been reading a lot of memoirs and nonfiction lately, so I am going to have to add this one to my list. Yes, there is a long way to go before we reach equality and it sounds like this book does a good job of underlining this, and sharing a new experience and lifestyle that we might not otherwise get to know about ourselves.

    1. Sociologically this memoir has such a lot to say about how minority groups are marginalised, and the negative effects this isolating behaviour has both on those who are excluded and also on the society which considers itself superior