A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True

  • by Brigid Pasulka
  • Narrated by Cassandra Campbell
  • 14 hrs and 19 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The novel opens on the eve of World War II. In the mountain village of Half-Village, a young man nicknamed the Pigeon, under the approving eyes of the entire village, courts the beautiful Anielica Hetmanska. But the war's arrival wreaks havoc in all their lives and delays their marriage for six long years. Nearly 50 years later, their granddaughter, Beata, leaves Half-Village for Krakow, the place where her grandparents lived as newlyweds after the war and the setting of her grandmother's most magical stories. Beata yearns to find her own place in this new city, one that is very different from her imagination and the past. Her first person insight into a country on the cusp of change--and the human toll of Poland's rapid-fire embrace of capitalism--transports readers to another world.
When two unexpected events occur, one undeniably tragic, and the other a kind of miracle, Beata is given a fresh glimpse at her family's and her country's, history and a vision of her own essential role in the New Poland. With the effortless, accomplished grace of a gifted storyteller, Pasulka weaves together the two strands of her story, re-imagining half a century of Polish history through the legacy of one profound love affair--that of the Pigeon and Anielica--which readers won't soon forget.

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Audible Editor Reviews

With her informed Polish accent and remarkable insight, Cassandra Campbell seems astonishingly familiar with the country and culture she represents in her narration of A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True. Campbell captures the subtle differences between each voice through pitch, dialect, and emotion. In a novel packed with so many Eastern European characters, Campbell acquaints the listener with each unique individual, guiding us through Brigid Pasulka’s intricate narrative.
Pasulka weaves two stories in alternating chapters that come together by the novel’s end. The first is the story of Anielica and the Pigeon, a young couple living in Half Village whose plans for a life together are thwarted by Hitler’s invasion of Poland in the 1930s. The other story is of their granddaughter, Beata, whose captivating search for identity takes place in post-communism Krakow in the 1990s. As Anielica and the Pigeon struggle to survive in Old Poland, their beloved village is torn apart by the carnage of World War II. While their sacrifices are substantial, we know that they are made so that future generations could live in a more peaceful Poland (as illustrated by Beata’s complementary narrative). Although Beata has little family left to raise her, she finds comfort and a sense of place in Krakow with her aunt and cousin. Her journey is one that will ultimately allow her a stronger sense of identity with her family who suffered years ago in Old Poland.
A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True is both heartbreaking and hopeful. When an unprecedented tragedy strikes towards the end of the novel, the characters find unity and solace in their country and in one another. Pasulka’s novel is comprised of fairy tale love that exists both for the characters and for Krakow. Campbell pulls us into Poland with her sharp narration, enveloping the listener in the country’s endless culture and history. — Suzanne Day

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

The Old & New Worlds Converge & Transcend Time

This has to be one of my favorite books in a long time. The perfect blend of writing, audio production and narration made for an excellent audible experience. I don't know how I missed reading this until now--it has been around since 2009. I'm chalking it up to a terribly inaccurate audible editor review. Specifically, saying that the book is about Hitler invading Poland in the 1950s and that it is a fairy tale is misleading. No, I correct that--it is in my opinion absolutely idiotic. If you know any history (or if you can google) you know that Germany invaded Poland in September of 1939 AND that Hitler committed suicide in April of 1945. It most definitely would be pure fantasy and require lots of magic for him to have risen from the grave and invaded Poland in the 1950s. I mean really????

In truth the book is not a fairy tale, not a fantasy and not about magic. Instead, Pasulka has written a delicately powerful beauty. The focus is on love, family, struggle and the contrast and connections between the old world and the new post war and occupation world. It's about finding your way, bridging both worlds and living out the meaning of life. It is simply fantastic.

The set up of alternating chapters between Old Poland (the grandparents) and New Poland (the granddaughter) took some time to understand and settle into. Once I understood the format, the storytelling took over and I was captivated. The Old Poland chapters were read in a clear non-accented voice--a wonderful choice. The chapters about New Poland (1989) were narrated in a heavily accented voice and sprinkled with Polish words. I resorted to looking up some frequent words just so I could understand what was happening. Campbell did a superb job of making me feel I had traveled to Poland, didn't speak the language and had to work to understand the people. By the end of the book I really felt I knew the characters--a good part of that was due to Campbell's excellent narration.

Not to be missed. I loved every minute.
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- Sara

didn't know what to expect

This book gets 5 stars on Amazon.com and very high marks here...so I knew nothing about the book, so I thought I'd give it a listen...and I am SO glad I did. This is a WONDERFUL story and I can't imagine anyone not liking it. It's probably not for girls under 16 due to a scary rape scene, but other than that, it's pretty violence free, quite funny and I devoured it.

When I realized it was coming to the end I actually started the book over and waited to read the final 2 chapters fresh after reading the book a second time. It made the end...which is somewhat bittersweet...a LOT sweeter since I had just read this magical little book twice and was TWICE as eager to hear the last 2 chapters. I was NOT disappointed. I was gladdened... Such a wonderful book. I just didn't want it to end.
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- Melinda

Book Details

  • Release Date: 12-22-2009
  • Publisher: Audible Studios