It is 1945. Somewhere in Central Europe, in the aftermath of violence and confusion, a terrified and bloodstained young woman, Eliska, emerges from the forest to take refuge in an apparently abandoned castle. Soon she is joined by others - the idealistic Jiri, the sinister Slavomir and his partisans, and Count Michael Blansky, who is the castle's ancestral owner.
But the war has changed things for ever. In a storm of ideological change, the existing order and the aristocratic heritage of ten generations are brushed aside by the arrival of Communism, and Count Michael must join the flood of refugees if he is to survive. He leaves behind a legacy which will entangle those involved for the next forty years in more ways than they can possibly imagine.
As divided post-war Europe unravels around them, they must make what they can of lives buffeted by circumstance. For many, individual freedom is at best problematic. For better or worse, communities are destroyed, families uprooted, and the ties of trust, friendship and duty which bind them together are broken down by the implacably irresolvable forces at work. Told through the eyes of nine characters who live through the forty years between the end of the war and the fall of Communism, A Desert in Bohemia is a complex and enthralling testament to the power and powerlessness of the individual in challenging times.
'Immensely powerful...a broad sweep of a book'
'Sinuously evocative...Masterfully told...Immensely ambitious, yet also immensely moving, A Desert in Bohemia deserves to follow Walsh's last novel, Knowledge of Angels, on to the Booker shortlist'
'A shimmering, fabulous story...Tragic, convincing, moving, this is a novel whose richness, complexity and, ultimately, optimism make the heart
'A moving, gripping, ultimately optimistic, and intensely satisfying novel. Beautifully constructed and written...wonderful'
'Structurally and thematically ambitious...serious, yet enchanting'