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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I cannot recommend this book highly enough., 10 Dec 2008
By 
Katherine Marriott (London, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Hungarian Dances (Paperback)
Hungarian Dances is a marvellous, intelligent, thought-provoking meditation upon the human condition; it explores the themes of identity, whether national or sexual, of the possibilities of love, of betrayal, and of the deep meaning of music, whilst carrying you along on a beautifully-crafted story that is utterly absorbing. It may be a cliché to say "I couldn't put this book down", but in my case it is a quite literal statement of fact. I read it throughout the night despite having several urgent matters to attend to and desperately needing my sleep! (Warning: clear your diary before picking this up!)

This is a wonderfully-written book; nothing in the prose jarred, nothing was extraneous. Don't let the slightly girly cover put you off - this is seriously good literature. As a professional opera singer, I am used to hurling any books which mention classical music at the wall in irritation; this one, with its accurate portrayals of the frustrations, disappointments, and sublime joys of music-making, resonated strongly in my soul.

If you like your novels to make you think, without being overtly pushed to do so, this is not to be missed. Glorious!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EXHILARATING!, 23 April 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Hungarian Dances (Hardcover)
I found this a most exciting and gratifying book for the plot as well as for its treatment of two passions of mine: music and Budapest. Jessica Duchen is well known as a writer on music and as a very successful novelist. She also has one of the best-run blogs on the net: you will find a lot about this book there, including photos of places in Budapest described in the book. You can also make the acquaintance of her cat Solti!
Like all good communicators, Jessica Duchen wears her learning lightly and writes in a limpid, flowing style which makes one want to keep reading. She manages to keep several plots going at once without ever losing the reader and always judges perfectly the right moment to move on so as to maintain suspense.
She has a vivid eye for detail and one easily empathizes with the characters: the scene in the run-down Budapest café where the gypsy father of Mimi, whom she wants to invite to her concert at the Liszt Academy, refuses furiously from the humiliation he feels at being dirty and unwashed and therefore unworthy of going to such a place is quite heartbreaking.
This book could be classed as "popular fiction", "a good read", "a real page-turner" but I think this would be to underestimate such a well-crafted and profound novel. Highly recommended. A paperback version is now available.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I didn't want it to end!, 5 Aug 2008
By 
MF (London, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Hungarian Dances (Paperback)
This story gripped from the first page to the last. Although the central family in the story is Hungarian and musical, you don't need to be either to get totally caught up in their story as tumultous events, personal and political, overtake them. The narrative sweeps you along at a cracking pace that never lets up despite ranging back and forth between past and present. Jessica Duchen has created a hugely rich and appealing tapestry of characters, and her deftly interwoven sub-plots are filled with astute observations and wry insights about relationships and human behaviour. If the sign of a good book is that you don't want it to end, I was utterly bereft when it had finished.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure pleasure!, 5 Aug 2008
This review is from: Hungarian Dances (Paperback)
Jesssica Duchen's third novel is an enchanting read. The characters are so vibrant and touching, they became friends I was sorry to part with. She has an extraordinary capacity to make distant times and places come alive. I was fascinated by the glimpse of Hungarian gypsy life before the war as well as Hungary during the post-war years, what people are capable of when they have a little power. There is also the theme of exile and transformation. But the heart of the novel is very much set in England, an interwoven story of four generations including the predicaments of modern marriage, told with the author's characteristic wry humour and compassionate wisdom. "We're the sum total of our own stories", one character says - but when these stories are half-truths told to ourselves and others, they cast a spell on the present - and this is partly what the novel is about, an unveiling process that enables new possibilities. It's wonderful!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dancing to freedom, 21 May 2008
By 
Amazon Customer (London, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Hungarian Dances (Hardcover)
Jessica Dutchen has written her best book yet, the story of Karina, a violinist, mother, wife and lover, and the chasms in her life and background - an immigrants' child married to Julian from the manor, her parents Denes and Erszebet fleeing oppression and their own country, her grandmother Mimi a brilliant violinist from the despised Roma - that only love and music can even hope to cross.

Some books will open your eyes to another world - this one is even more generous. The story takes us from the inequities of pre-war Budapest, the glitter of war-time New York, and the brutalities of post-war communist Hungary to a London train crash and the cynical dynamics of 21st century public transport policy.

Reading it the first time, I just wanted to keep turning the pages because I was so involved with the characters and the story. Re-reading the last few chapters to write this, I found myself sucked in once again, but more able to appreciate how the story works as well as it does because it too leaps these chasms, and takes us with it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hungarian Dances, 25 Feb 2011
This review is from: Hungarian Dances (Kindle Edition)
I bought Hungarian Dances because I love literary novels about music and culture, and most of all because I love Hungary. I have to say when I took the book off the shelf in Waterstone's I had reservations when I saw the cover. I can see what they were trying to do - strangely enough seing the thumbnail here I can see it much more clearly than the physical book - it's trying to capture those wonderful East European folk illustrations, which actually set the tone for the book perfectly. Sadly, in the flesh it looks (I think it's the font) like a much lighter confection altogether. Fortunately I'd heard enough about the book online to buy it anyway, and I'm so glad I did, because this is a wonderful, rich, layered piece of writing, thought-provoking and moving, informative, insightful, hugely rewarding. I would recommend it to anyone who wants a book to transport them to a beautifully-realised world and bring them back transformed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful story, 4 Aug 2008
By 
A. N. Brickwood (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Hungarian Dances (Paperback)
I LOVED this book. By the end I was frantically page turning.

It's a wonderful story, really captivating and you care enormously about the four generations of characters and the several strands of stories that are interwoven. The traumas facing a young boy at school are presented as achingly as those of the older generations looking back at their lives and questioning the choices they have made. Having a remarkable, strong willed, non-negotiable grandmother myself, I really smiled as Mimi, the eldest character, says one thing and thinks another entirely. As the story unfolds, generations of half-truths are discovered and revealed - you feel such sympathy with the characters, the lives they have lived and the current battles they are facing. The protagonist, Karina, is so human - a real woman with real emotions, complexities and passion.

It's a great book, don't want to give too much of the story away... Anyone who is a fan of Jeanette Winterson or Joanne Harris will love this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EXHILARATING, 1 Aug 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Hungarian Dances (Paperback)
I found this a most exciting and gratifying book for the plot as well as for its treatment of two passions of mine: music and Budapest. Jessica Duchen is well known as a writer on music and as a very successful novelist. She also has one of the best-run blogs on the net: you will find a lot about this book there, including photos of places in Budapest described in the book. You can also make the acquaintance of her cat Solti!
Like all good communicators, Jessica Duchen wears her learning lightly and writes in a limpid, flowing style which makes one want to keep reading. She manages to keep several plots going at once without ever losing the reader and always judges perfectly the right moment to move on so as to maintain suspense.
She has a vivid eye for detail and one easily empathizes with the characters: the scene in the run-down Budapest café where the gypsy father of Mimi, whom she wants to invite to her concert at the Liszt Academy, refuses furiously from the humiliation he feels at being dirty and unwashed and therefore unworthy of going to such a place is quite heartbreaking.
This book could be classed as "popular fiction", "a good read", "a real page-turner" but I think this would be to underestimate such a well-crafted and profound novel. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic story, beautifully constructed, 21 Feb 2010
By 
This review is from: Hungarian Dances (Paperback)
This book was a great read and I found impossible to put it down until I finished it!

The stories are beatifully constructed and held together. The book is emotional and intense and yet maintains a certain lightness.

I had already enjoyed Alicia's Gift, by the same author, but this is on another level - it is just perfect.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hungarian Dances Rocks, 8 Sep 2008
By 
This review is from: Hungarian Dances (Paperback)
A really good read. I enjoyed Hungarian Dances very much -and I admired it enormously too. Jessica Duchen brings Hungary vividly alive for the English reader,which is a great and unfamiliar pleasure in itself. The story takes on some really dark material and serious issues, all while moving readers along and keeping them entertained.
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Hungarian Dances
Hungarian Dances by Jessica Duchen (Paperback - 24 July 2008)
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