Reviewed by Bev Scott
Nicola’s Leg tells the true life story of Nicola, written from the perspective of his leg. Nicola must go with his parents when they flee the Russian Revolution. They travel to Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives. Although his father, Nikita, is captured and presumed shot during their escape, his mother, Natacha continues on. Ultimately Natacha takes refuge at the Russian Orthodox Convent on the famous Mount of Olives.
The story follows Nicola as an adolescent, when Natacha encourages him to go visit relatives in Eastern Europe. Next we see Nicola while he serves in the military in Egypt in World War II. And, then Nicola marries Maura and becomes a father to five children. Later, he is imprisoned and tortured during Israel’s Six-Day War. Due to his injuries, he loses his legs. This tragic loss gives the book its unusual title, Nicola’s Leg.
The author, Natacha Pavlov, writes a very engaging story about Nicola, her real-life grandfather. She uses the omnipotent voice to describe the travails and joys of Nicola’s life including his deep religious faith. Writers seldom use the omnipotent voice today, and thus it seems unusual. Readers like me may find it difficult in the beginning. However, Pavlov uses it well and draws the reader into Nicola’s story. I also enjoyed learning from a more personal level the impact of events in the first half of the twentieth century.
Pavlov uses her family history directly to create an engaging novel. I also wrote my novel based on family history. However, it became fictionalized by necessity. See My First Novel for more information.