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Along the Enchanted Way: A Story of Love and Life in Romania Paperback – 5 Aug 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray (5 Aug. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0719598001
  • ISBN-13: 978-0719598005
  • Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 2.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 35,645 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

'Wonderful . . . A wild and captivating story' (Patrick Leigh Fermor)

This is an enthralling account of highs, lows and lessons learnt (Daily Express)

'Warm and charming, providing a vivid picture of an immemorial culture in its final moments' (Country Life)

'A vivid panorama of life in this 'great bubbling cauldron of magic' recounted with humour, poetry and compassion. Enchanted indeed' (Wanderlust)

'A lyrical description of an almost vanished way of life that many of us, stuck in traffic jams, in call-centre queues and behind supermarket trolleys, probably find ourselves sometimes hankering after' (Sunday Times)

'Enchantment is the key word. One wonders whether this might be the book of a lifetime, with all its youthful vigour'Every page and paragraph says Blacker is a natural-born writer and teller of great tales' (Daily Telegraph)

Elegantly written with a sharp sense of place and the seasons (Independent on Sunday)

Book Description

A spellbinding memoir set in rural Romania


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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

73 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 10 Sept. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Blacker has done an extraordinary thing with this intoxicating memoir of ten years spent in Transylvania and the Maramures, as an age-old way of life gradually crumbles in the face of what the French call 'grand surface', the bland advance of modernity. This isn't travel writing. It's not sun-baked Tuscan redevelopment schmaltz. It's not a lament - it's that, discreetly, too - but a gripping and affecting account of his own experience of living in this remote and beautiful region of Europe, telling a story that's almost impossibly romantic. He chronicles a near-mediaeval way of life, with its horses and witches, its casual kindness and grace, its wholeness and jealousies - interwoven with his own story - the years he spent living the peasant life, the rumbunctious affair with his Gypsy girlfriend, the brutality of the police, the cruelty and the wisdom of country life. It's all true - the photos are worth the price alone - it's funny, it'll make you cry, and it knocks Patrick Leigh-Fermor and Byron into a curiously shaped Transylvanian cocked hat.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Avid on 30 Oct. 2010
Format: Hardcover
I agree with the other reviewers of this book - it is a brilliant, moving account of the author's time in rural Romania. He brings the characters to life and clearly cares very deeply for the country. Although I know Bucharest much better than rural Romania, the story rings true to me. It is also, as befits a journalist, very well written. I read it rapidly and was sad to come to the end - always the signs of a good book.

The only reason I have given four stars rather than five is that - occasionally - the author is a mite patronising. He records the modernising of Romania in very one-sided terms, as if everything new is bad and everything old is good. That is perhaps an easy thing for an outsider like Blacker, who never seems to have money problems and could have returned to the UK at any moment, to say.

Given the political backdrop to the book, I would also have liked to have read a bit more of Blacker's views on Romanian politics. The lauding of pre-revolutionary peasant life needs, in my view, to be balanced by some information of the horrors of the pre-1989 regime. After all, that was the thing that stopped the modern world intruding for so long.

I recommend reading it alongside Carmen Bugan's autobiographical Burying the Typewriter: Childhood Under the Eye of the Secret Police. Bugan tells how, when the country's leader went hunting, she and other schoolchildren were forced 'to sing at the top of our lungs so that comrade Ceausescu and his friends would hear the song of the happy peasants.' (page 231)

But, overall, this is a brilliant book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By David Thompson on 16 Oct. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When communism collapsed in eastern Europe in the space of just a few months, William Blacker hit the road, like many others of his generation, not just to witness the once-only exhilaration of change, but also to experience something of a way of life that would soon be lost for good. Heading through Berlin and Prague, his narrative will be familiar to many who, like me, did something similar.
But Blacker went further (and for longer) than most, and was rewarded on his arrival in Northern Romania, with a life that was much older than Stalinism. It was everything his life in Britain wasn't. Learning the skills of haymaking, the rituals of an Orthodox parish and (with less success) the rules of rural courtship, he took on this new way of life for eight years, by the end of which he saw it disappearing before his eyes.
He writes of his experiences without disguising his youthful willingness to be seduced by his new life, and with an undiminished empathy for all sides in a society that has some deeply ingrained feuds. Often he quotes the advice of the older and wiser not to cross the community's lines, or if he must, at least to go armed. It would be rather easy to criticize his idealistic faith in the possibility of quelling complex rivalries of such long standing.
I read it, too, intending to be enchanted, and wasn't disappointed. Having no experience of the places he adopted as home, and having missed the chance to see what he saw, I can't say how much embellishment Blacker has added to the charm, but that would hardly matter. This book does what a good one should, be it memoir or fiction, transporting the reader into another world, using a narrative rich in colour, detail, mystery and humour. This might seem too twee for some, but it has an honest ring to it.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Viv Bennett on 28 July 2009
Format: Hardcover
Along the Enchanted Way: A Romanian Story

A wonderfully crafted book telling a deeply personal and fascinating story of a land still gripped in the the rural middle ages but living alongside the tumultus events of german reunification and liberation from communism of eastern europe. This book is funny, touching and wonderfully interesting, you cant fail to be gripped by it. I read it in a little over 24 hours. loved it.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Henry Carew on 17 Aug. 2009
Format: Hardcover
William Blacker's story of life in Romania takes the reader on a fascinating and poingent ramble through a rural experiance that ceased abruptly, in most of western Europe, post 1945. Those who remember the little pockets of tranquility that survived in the remoter places, such as Tristan da Cunha, Lundy, Ascension, Exemoor, Portugal & New Zealand, or listened to tales of such pre war idylls, will find that, until recently, many people in Central & Eastern Europe continued to enjoy that which had been stolen, by progress, in the West. A truly charming & moving read, a wonderful discovery and timely historical record. Many of the real life characters William records step from the pages as familiar as those from a deck of Happy Families playing cards.
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