Milena Urbanska is a red princess living in a Soviet satellite state in the 1980s. She enjoys limitless luxury and limited freedom; the end of the Cold War seems unimaginable. When she meets Jason, a confident but politically naive British poet, they fall into bed together. Before long, Milena is planning her escape.
She builds her story with wonderfully evocative detail, and as Milena moves from the wary conformity of her homeland to England, bubbles of humour burst through Goldsworthy’s bittersweet brew ... If Iron Curtain is often pessimistic about its lonely heroine’s world, this is no classical tragedy. The pages fly by, and Goldsworthy’s careful scrutiny brings warmth and sympathy to her tale of belonging and betrayal. Tense, brooding and often hilarious, Iron Curtain finds bright sparks as well as bleakness in the cold war’s dying embers.
Iron Curtain is Goldsworthy’s finest novel so far, a brilliantly written and often witty exploration of its protagonist’s predicament, caught as she is between two worlds, happy in neither, and seeking a freedom to live and love that always eludes her.
The emotions of this well-conjured novel are raw, its observations acute. Goldsworthy is so intent on getting where she wants to go that, from the book’s earliest pages, she repeatedly—and artfully—telegraphs its bitter ending ... Goldsworthy has constructed a sharply etched, more repressive variant of the Yugoslavia where she grew up ... This wholly satisfying novel winds up being about personal, not political, disloyalty, but the character drama is thrown into high relief against all the First and Second World-building that the author carries out ... By casting aside the traces of literary dependence and making Iron Curtain fully Milena’s story, Goldsworthy allows her protagonist to be what’s at stake.