A Country Road, A Tree

Written by Jo Baker
Review by Arleigh Johnson

This is the story of an Irish writer’s bleak WWII years in German-occupied France. “A Country Road, a Tree” is the setting for Samuel Beckett’s highly acclaimed absurdist play, Waiting for Godot, and in fact many aspects of the story relate to the dialog of the dramatic work. Although knowledge of the play is not essential to appreciate the novel, readers who enjoy digging deeper into the meaning of otherwise mundane occurrences may find themselves searching for a copy of Beckett’s version.

Opening upon a snippet of the writer’s childhood, an allegory of a tree’s significance is repeatedly used as he goes from a self-perceived family outcast to a sincere, though under-connected member of the resistance movement in France. He could have stayed safely away from the war in Ireland, but he feels the need to fight for his beloved adopted country. The combination of his origin, occupation and lack of funds undermines his determination, and he also continually battles with writer’s block and his responsibility for his companion, a French piano and singing instructor named Suzanne, who has remained at his side through all manner of desperation.

It’s rare to come across a book these days with such contemplative prose—moments and detailed movements through the eyes of a frustrated writer. The apprehension of the characters’ situation is palpable. Though their journey differs from the single setting in Waiting for Godot, the characters’ emotions are relatable. This book is recommended for readers of WWII history, biographical novels, and those looking for a story with in-depth symbolism.