"Dear Comrade Novák," by Silvia Hildebrandt
Historical / Literary Fiction
"There is no such thing as a private life in the Socialist Republic. There is no such thing as a homosexual. No such thing as love. Not a single case of AIDS occurred in the East. Those corrupt Western ideas simply don't exist in a perfect world."
A story about conspiracy and revolution, love and hate, and the strong power of friendship.
In 1980s communist Romania, three school graduates form an unusual friendship: young Attila, who's in love with his 45-year-old teacher; Tiberius, son of high class secret police parents; and the gypsy Viorica, who is forced into a marriage arranged when she was four.
When a conspiracy scandal throws their life upside down, all three of them will have to choose their sides: for or against the cruel tyrant Ceausescu.
This week’s read definitely strayed from my normal fare. I’ve loved the opportunities my blog has provided me to stretch my readerly boundaries and experience things I wouldn’t have had the chance to had I remained within my Romancelandia bubble. Dear Comrade Novák by Silvia Hildebrandt is the perfect example of just such a read.
I feel like a bit of a broken record lately because a lot of my reads have had rich worlds and environments based mostly on true places and times. As a primarily contemporary reader, and as a student who only did well in history class because I have a knack for taking standardized tests, stories with such intense historical context and backgrounds tend to drop my jaw to the floor. This was no exception. Ms. Hildebrandt weaved some gorgeous words that told a harrowing yet heartfelt tale. I can’t speak from experience or prior knowledge as to whether her depiction of Cold War era Romania was accurate or not, but the level of detail and convincing nature of her descriptions has me sold. It also has me hugging myself and thanking all my lucky stars I live in America in the year 2019. (Not to say we aren’t going painfully backward right now as a country, but this isn’t a place for political rambling. I’ll save that for another time and place.)
Overall, the story Ms. Hildebrandt depicted feels real and full of heart. The characters are flawed, true, and precociously lovable. My heart broke time and again as one after another painful event brought said characters to their proverbial knees. And yet… somehow, I still found some light in the darkness. No, this isn’t a flowery piece, and there’s a great deal of gritty realism that’ll knock the wind from your sails right quick, but those small moments of light shine all the brighter for the darkness surrounding them.
I would recommend this to any fan of historical or literary fiction. It isn’t for the faint of heart, and it isn’t for those who can’t handle when the agonies of real life leak into their fantasy. This is gritty, raw, and leaves a taste of sadness in your mouth that won’t soon go away. But it also leaves a sprig of hope. Something to cling to as you hug your loved ones close and trudge through another day.
So, what are you waiting for? Dear Comrade Novák is available for your immediate reading pleasure. It’s also available on Kindle Unlimited! 💕
Until next time,