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Based on historical people and events, this story does give a vivid picture of the time.
The battle scenes are detailed as is the impact of the invading Turks. I can understand why this book appealed to boys.
What I did like was the inclusion of Gypsies and their acceptance into the wider social scene. Here there are children being heros and great adventures going into foreign places as well as women being both mothers and warriors.
Great Armies and pillaging, captured people and slavery, the spread and impact of the Reformation. All this and, secret tunnels and castles with drawbriges. And the wise use of Paprika in making a meal.( if you and not your captors) like chilli.
Harrison read well.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Excellent story about relationships while describing a period of history in Hungary. Especially relevant today to understand the perfidiousness of Islamists.
Mr. Harrison delivers a striking, masterful reading of this fantastically stirring and rich historical novel. The author (Géza Gárdonyi, 1899) of this originally-serialized work set out to illustrate three wonderful things:
- humanly, how a bold boy and girl (Gergely and Éva, whose romance is traced wonderfully over two decades) can overcome all manner of obstacles to grow into a great man and woman;
- historically, how the tide of Hungarian — and wider European — history was turned by the supreme efforts of a few, at a time when it seemed the Ottoman Turks were going to completely overrun Christendom and when patriots and leaders were few and far between;
- and universally, how men can fiercely love and defend their country without losing their compassion or their understanding that God created the enemy, too.
In all of these aspects, Gárdonyi succeeded in crafting a masterpiece that Mr. Harrison’s reading does great justice to.
The backdrop is the early Reformation in the 1530s to 1550s and the tragedy of Hungary’s shattered state, with the author making a number of knowledgeable, sympathetic sketches of Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Muslim, Gypsy and agnostic characters and their motives. There is a thrilling extended adventure in Constantinople (İstanbul) in the middle of the book, full of detail, which Gárdonyi carefully researched by visiting the city. A great number of nationalities, technologies, artefacts, inventions and new ideas feature in the narrative, but it never feels overloaded, thanks to the careful pacing of author and narrator and the self-contained action of each chapter.
Mr. Harrison is spot-on in his Hungarian and Turkish pronunciation (no mean feat) and perfectly, colourfully captures the intonations so typical of each language. (Only a few Latin terms are mispronounced, with some final ‘-e’s dropped and some first syllables wrongly stressed.) The translation, too (George F. Cushing, 1991), is rich, engaging, accurate and idiomatically spot-on.