Thursday, October 02, 2008

Suffer the little children....

....seems to be a continuing theme in Jessica Duchen's books, of which I have just read the third, 'Hungarian Dances'. In every one of her books children seem to draw very much the short straw, either becoming anorexic, being pushed by ambitious parents, or being 'abandoned' by both parents, for different reasons. I hate that!

Another theme running through her books is music - this one is about a violinist who eventually finds herself, at considerable cost to her family (see above). Every time I see the title I have those Brahms Hungarian dances running through my head.

It's a story that flips backwards and forwards, between the life of her Roma grandmother, the lives of her parents who fled Hungary in 1956, and her own life - all of which contain a certain amount of trauma, particularly at the Hungarian/Roma end (I am not entirely sure why I do not care so much about the Roma part of the book; I also did not care so much for Colum McCann's 'Zoli', reviewed here which covers much the same topic. Is it because it is well-meaning foreigners writing about them? I think I might prefer a book written by a Roma person). In between there is the family who has lived across the road from Karina's (the heroine's) family who lose a daughter in a catastrophic railway accident.

There are some logic gaps - Karina's father appears to speak with a strong Hungarian accent and slightly fractured English - but he spent his first 7 years in New York - should he not have an American accent?  Also the body of her friend, following the train accident and a fire, is identified by a dental filling - but the accident happened in the 21st century - would they not have used DNA analysis to identify it conclusively?

It's a very readable book (lightish) in a sort of middle-class English way with Hungarian ingredients - a bit of an English goulash. Perhaps this adds extra spice (ouch!) to the type of readers who read Joanna Trollope (and no, an Aga is never mentioned). It's fairly unputdownable - I finished it on a long journey to Kazakhstan.


Jessica said...

It is always the children who suffer for their parents' stupid mistakes. This is blindingly obvious. If it's uncomfortable and you hate it, that's tough: it needs to be said, which is why I say it.