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Marianne Szegedy-Maszák’s parents, Hanna and Aladár, met and fell in love in Budapest in 1940. He was a rising star in the foreign ministry - a vocal anti-Fascist who was in talks with the Allies when he was arrested and sent to Dachau. She was the granddaughter of Manfred Weiss, the industrialist patriarch of an aristocratic Jewish family that owned factories, were patrons of intellectuals and artists, and entertained dignitaries at their baronial estates. Though many in the family had converted to Catholicism decades earlier, when the Germans invaded Hungary in March 1944, they were forced into hiding. In a secret and controversial deal brokered with Heinrich Himmler, the family turned over their vast holdings in exchange for their safe passage to Portugal.
Aladár survived Dachau, a fragile and anxious version of himself. After nearly two years without contact, he located Hanna and wrote her a letter that warned that he was not the man she’d last seen, but he was still in love with her. After months of waiting for visas and transit, she finally arrived in a devastated Budapest in December 1945, where at last they were wed.
Framed by a cache of letters written between 1940 and 1947, Szegedy-Maszák’s family memoir tells the story, at once intimate and epic, of the complicated relationship Hungary had with its Jewish population - the moments of glorious humanism that stood apart from its history of anti-Semitism - and with the rest of the world. She resurrects in riveting detail a lost world of splendor and carefully limns the moral struggles that history exacted - from a country and its individuals.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Sara on 01-23-15
Quite The Slog Fleshing Out The Family Tree
Let me start with what I liked about the book. When the author wrote about events and people she actually experienced first hand it was wonderful. It was engaging and kept me listening far past the point that I would ordinarily have given up. She captures the Budapest that I have experienced and I loved those parts.
The rest I'm afraid was written in an overly ornate and cumbersomely florid and stilted style. Repetitive and almost circular. The long lists of people with complex family names, properties and belongings once owned--but never really fleshed out through true story telling quickly becomes tiresome.
The narration was one of the biggest problems for me. When authors act as narrators it often goes wrong. In this case it was difficult. Mispronunciation of words with stress placed inconsistently on the wrong syllable peppered the reading. Frequent verbal stumbles mixed with a tone that was cloying and even condescending made it too much. It just ruined it for me. I think this could have been picked up early in production and corrected. I wonder if a different reader might have saved the book?
22 of 24 people found this review helpful
By B Rose on 11-11-14
Most Writers shouldn't narrate
What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?
First a different narrator, second, too much jumping around.
What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?
The love affair.
How could the performance have been better?
Narrated by someone else.
What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?
Any additional comments?
There are so many great books on this period of time with teriffic narrators, this for me, wasn't one of them. I'm sure the story would have been great also if told differently and narrated by someone else.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful