Details: (c) 2002 Libby Purves; Pub 2003 Hodder & Stoughton; ISBN 0-340-79391-0
Verdict: Mother Country is enjoyable fluff.
Reasons for reading it: I like Purves, primarily as a journalist but I've also enjoyed some of her novels. I'm getting a bit bogged down in Birds without wings and wanted to read something fluffy that wouldn't take long, before getting back to the book I'm actually in the middle of.
How it came into my hands: Library. I'm taking advantage of my last few weeks living near English-language libraries!
Mother Country is a fun popular novel. It's original in that it's really a story about a man exploring his roots, and romance is a barely mentioned side-plot (as opposed to being a story about a woman finding True Love disguised as whatever). And it's attempting some Zeitgeisty stuff about the foot and mouth epidemic and the September 11 attacks.
The characterization is decent, which makes up for a lot. Probably the strongest feature of the book is Alex' development and coming of age, and the minor characters are plausible too. The major plot twist and the dramatic climax which results both feel a bit contrived, but that's forgivable. The social observation is so-so; it's definitely nice that it's there, and that the book is very much set in the real world rather than the romantic novel parallel universe. The device of an American visitor in England works well as a hook for this, too.
So I enjoyed Mother Country, it kept me reading, but it's fairly forgettable.