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Valeria's Last Stand
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The Hungarian village of Zivatar may be isolated, but it is not completely immune to the changes sweeping the country. The Soviets have left, and the villagers are warming to the blessings of capitalism-expensive cars, cheap women, and California fruit. It's all too much for Valeria, the village grouch. And yet, Valeria is not immune to change, either. A routine trip to the market leads to unexpected love, and sets off a chain reaction through the entire village. A remarkably accomplished debut novel, Valeria's Last Stand contemplates love, lust, tradition, and transition with wisdom and warmth.

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Life in an isolated Hungarian village is turned upside down by an unusual love affair in Fitten's promising debut. In the small hamlet of Zivatar, 68-year-old Valeria is known by all as a cantankerous woman, quick to criticize everything from the produce at the market to the mayor's lofty ambitions to lure foreign investors to the town. But a chance encounter one day with the elderly local potter-a man Valeria has known for years but never noticed-changes everything. The widower potter falls just as hard for Valeria, despite his relationship with Ibolya, the owner of the village's only tavern. Unaccustomed to being smitten, Valeria tries to maintain her normal routine, but the village is in an uproar over this unlikely love triangle. The arrival of a traveling chimney sweep intent on bilking the townspeople sends another ripple through what was once a placid village. Fitten is not always successful in balancing character development with the larger themes of power and progress, but the irascible Valeria makes such a unique heroine that readers may be willing to overlook the story's less fluid elements. (May) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

In this warmly amusing first novel, true love overtakes a grumpy old woman in Hungary, and her remote village is thrown into an uproar. Feared harridan Valeria falls for the local potter, a hapless widower content to make plates for his local customers. The potter had been seeing the woman who runs the bar where all the local men hang out, and she soon becomes jealous of Valeria and plots to sabotage the budding romance. Initially indecisive, the potter finally realizes that Valeria, for all her contrariness, has inspired him to create artistic masterpieces. Subplots involve the potter's apprentice, who refuses to commit to his own love, and the mayor's efforts to drag the remote village into the modern age. Throughout, the other villagers and bar patrons form a kind of Greek chorus. In the end, true love will conquer all, even though it might be injured a little by a broken beer bottle. Enjoyable and poignant, this work is recommended.-Jim Coan, SUNY Coll. at Oneonta Lib. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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