An emotional zeitgeisty novel about escape and exile from an opressive regime.
Domnica Radulescu won Romania's National Prize for Short Story Writing when she was just 17 but fled the country soon after to escape the Communist dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu. She is now a Full Professor in the Department of Romance Languages and Chair of the Women's Studies Program at Washington and Lee University.
It's 1977 in Ceausescu's brutal Romania, and 17-year-old Mona Manoliu is falling for brooding Mihai Simionu, whom she meets on summer vacation in the Carpathian mountains. What should be a grandly simple first love is complicated by fear, especially for Mona's father, a Bucharest poetry professor tracked by the secret police. Death and secrets plague Mona and Mihai's affair, as friends and relatives die under suspicious circumstances. While the country slides further into poverty, paranoia is the norm, and Mona doesn't know whether to believe the rumors she hears about Mihai. But after her father is detained by police, and then released through the intervention of a former student, it's clear that Mona must leave Romania. Of the many well-known escape routes, she chooses to take the train to "Trieste" (actually the Yugoslav border). The book takes her much further than that, all the way to a confrontation with the truth about the men in her life, both past and present. Radulescu gives Mona a convincingly overwrought voice, loading her observations with sensory detail, literary and cultural references, and keening emotion. It won't be for everyone, but it offers a unique look at the shadowy world of a brutal dictatorship. (Aug.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
True love is hard to find, but it's priceless--a lesson it takes feisty and vivacious Mona Manoliu decades to learn. A 17-year-old student in late 1970s Romania, Mona has fallen hard for the charismatic Mihai, whom she meets when summering with her family in the foothills of the Carpathians. Back home in Bucharest, her father pursues clandestine activities, and the family barely eats, but Mona is starry-eyed about Mihai--until she sees him in a black leather jacket, the favored outfit of the secret police, and encounters a crazed woman who asks her whether she really knows who he is. Then her family persuades her to flee to the West, and she's off to America via Italy via Bucharest. Years later, Mona returns to Romania and discovers the truth about Mihai--a revelation that, against all expectations, is both startling and satisfying. Though the passages detailing Mona's life in America can feel both too detailed and too rushed, the narrative as a whole is engaging, evocative, intensely sensual, and sharply perceptive, conveying both the horrors of the Ceausescu regime and the ironies of Mona's experiences in America. A strong first novel from the founding director of the National Symposium of Theater in Academe; for most collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/08.]--Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
"A coming of age story, a struggle for political integrity and
female identity, a wonderful love story - the book engages us on
many levels." -- Bernhard Schlink, author of THE READER and
"I was swept away by Domnica Radulescu's debut novel. It's at once a haunting journey to a faraway country, beautiful and terrifying, and an odyssey straight to the heart of a young girl and the remarkable woman she becomes. Deeply moving and deeply felt, Train to Trieste is an unforgettable story that introduces a new and astonishingly fresh voice." -- Arthur Golden, author of Memoirs of a Geisha