Marko is the key character in this superb novel that follows the lives of a group of migrants living in an inner-city block of social housing flats in New Zealand. Marko is a violinist who has come to the ends of the earth to escape a once illustrious musical career in Bulgaria. But when a Polish bookstore owner calls him a traitor, and when his photograph appears in the newspaper, he fears his past has come back to haunt him, and he feels powerless to prevent being exposed, something he fears greatly.
But Marko is not the only one trying to rebuild his life in a new country; there is Stefan, a piano technician, singer Nada, and many more people who share this building trying to get ahead in a new land. When the residents get a notice from the council that their rent is going up, they are galvanised into action, and new relationships are forged between. Meanwhile, Stefan is trying to save Marko from despair, and it is their friendship and their love of music that drives this book.
The novel shines a light on what it is like to be an immigrant in our country - the problems, the heartache, the uncertainty, but also the determination to build a new life with little more than fortitude. The characters in this novel are beautifully written, and I found myself really caring what happened to them. The author expertly drives the story forward, while also revealing the character’s backstories. For Marko and the other characters in the book, their past is crucial. It is the key to why they fled their old countries, and also the key to why it might be holding them back in their new lives.
A Change of Key is a thought-provoking, warm and enjoyable read, and I particularly liked the shared love of music that brings the characters together, transcending their sometimes mundane existence and gruelling problems. A fabulous read I would recommend.
Reviewer: Karen McMillan
Escalator Press, RRP $28.00