Customer Reviews


2 Reviews
5 star:
 (1)
4 star:    (0)
3 star:
 (1)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cloak and Daggaer during the twilight of Communism
Jessica Douglas-Home (pronounced Hume) is a British painter, theatre stage designer and writer who during the 1980s dour period of Communist dictatorship got involved in the fledgling Human Rights movement first in Czechoslovakia and subsequently in Poland, Hungary and Romania. Jessica's husband was a defense correspondent for The Times who was jailed in Prague during...
Published on 13 Aug 2010 by Constantin ROMAN

versus
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Art for What Sake?
Here's a book that if you have a passion for Eastern Europe you will surely find engaging, but also surprisingly frustrating.
In "Once Upon Another Time", Jessica Douglas-Home chronicles the challenges and dangers that faced a group of British and American dissident sympathisers, who sought, throughout the mid to late 80s, to support various intellectual...
Published on 15 Jan 2001 by Gary Haigh


Most Helpful First | Newest First

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Art for What Sake?, 15 Jan 2001
By 
Gary Haigh (LONDON United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Once Upon Another Time: Ventures Behind the Iron Curtain (Hardcover)
Here's a book that if you have a passion for Eastern Europe you will surely find engaging, but also surprisingly frustrating.
In "Once Upon Another Time", Jessica Douglas-Home chronicles the challenges and dangers that faced a group of British and American dissident sympathisers, who sought, throughout the mid to late 80s, to support various intellectual thinkers, whose lifestyle and study was repressed by the communist governments of Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary and Romania.
The challenges of being followed, stopped and searched by the many secret police orgsanisations behind the Iron Curtain are chilling enough, but they pale into insignificance when compared with the systematical brutality and repression to which the dissident thinkers were subjected.
Brave, intelligent men and women, who would be encouraged and sponsored by the state in the West, are reduced to stoking heating boilers, to prevent them influencing the proletariat and encouraging free thought. The sense is absolutely one of potential wasted and great minds marginalised.
Thankfully, following the various revolutions of 1989, the situation has improved somewhat and whilst living standards in places like Romania remain challenging, at least free thinking in Eastern Europe is now widely tolerated, if not always encouraged.
The disquieting thought, to which Douglas-Home herself refers when discussing the potential future use of a photocopier that is to be sent to Romania, is around the role that these dissidents ultimately played in toppling the system. Did meeting to discuss English landscape painting really help ignite the populace against the regimes of the day or were the revolutions started by shipyard workers, miners or, in the case of Hungary, the government itself?
The thought doesn't belittle the importance of the principles that the dissidents upheld and the consequent repression that they suffered, but perhaps douglas-home has undersold the revolutionary contribution of her intellectual friends, or, in the final analysis, was the miner's pick axe mightier than the pen?
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cloak and Daggaer during the twilight of Communism, 13 Aug 2010
By 
This review is from: Once Upon Another Time: Ventures Behind the Iron Curtain (Hardcover)
Jessica Douglas-Home (pronounced Hume) is a British painter, theatre stage designer and writer who during the 1980s dour period of Communist dictatorship got involved in the fledgling Human Rights movement first in Czechoslovakia and subsequently in Poland, Hungary and Romania. Jessica's husband was a defense correspondent for The Times who was jailed in Prague during the Soviet invasion of 1968. He was later to become Editor of The Times and a friend of PM Margaret Thatcher. Unfortunately he died before the fall of the Iron Curtain, but his widow continued her involvement in a cloak-and-dagger series of visits which are described vividly in the pages of this book revealing the sinister face of communism, the malnutrition of ordinary folk and the systematic destruction of the historic monuments and memory of a cowered society.

Having come under the radar of Romania's Secret services - the infamous Securitate, Jessica is described as: "a very dangerous lady". However and quite surprisingly, this does not seem to have precluded the same Secret services in allowing two hand-picked individuals amongst the approved intelligentsia to frequent the same dinner parties given by Hugh Arbuthnott, HM Ambassador in Bucharest in honour of the visiting Mrs. Douglas-Home - quite extraordinary given the circumstances, but then the whole book is full of such extraordinary episodes.

"...the Arbuthnots second party took place that evening - a lavish buffet for twenty. As with the first one, people sat in huddles whispering on the stairs and in corners. A gaunt professor of architecture entered and for a time seemed frozen by the sight of the two tables piled high with unheard of delicacies. A waiter broke the spell by handing him a glass of wine from a silver tray whereupon he fell on the food like a starving man." (quotation from page 169-170)
(Note- under Ceausescu, during the 1980s Romanians had next to nothing to eat, except chicken claws, as all foodstuff was exported to pay for the national debt).

By contrast to the fearful natives "huddled in corners" two of the Romanian hand-picked guests were "stretching their legs out from the deep velvet sofa, arms clasped behind their necks, their eyes glinting amusedly (...), relaxed and at peace with themselves"....
One may well ask why, given the prevailing atmosphere of paranoia and fear in the sunset days of Ceausescu's Romania, how such contrast was at all possible?
Not long after this episode involving the two strange characters - Arbuthnott himself was roughed up by Securitate agents in the streets in Cluj, as he tried to visit the dissident Doina Cornea.

Those readers keen on thrillers and with the benefit of hindsight of the political practice in this corner of Europe, may be able to read a lot between the lines. Indeed twenty years after the above events described in this book, the fellow guests from the British Embassy party got even more polarised - the two happy characters singled out by the author are even more pleased with themselves, whilst the rest of the "huddled" natives are feeling even more insecure, unless they may have used their better judgment and decided to flee, in despair, Romania and its neo-communism: circa three million Romanians did just that since the fall of Ceausescu.
A good read with a bitter taste about life during the twilight of Communism.

Post-script: currently Jessica Douglas-Hume is busy restoring the ruins of Transylvania following the massive exodus of its Saxon population - watch this space!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Once Upon Another Time: Ventures Behind the Iron Curtain
Once Upon Another Time: Ventures Behind the Iron Curtain by Jessica Douglas-Home (Hardcover - 31 July 2000)
Used & New from: 26.61
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews