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Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A collection of essays, 4 Jan. 2011
This review is from: Cafe Europa: Life After Communism (Paperback)
I read this book while on holiday in modern day Croatia, chosen because the author is Croatian (although she now lives in Vienna with her Swedish husband).
It is basically a collection of essays which appear to be strangely frozen in time between the fall of Communism and the modern Croatia which I visited. It was this photograph of a country in turmoil that was its appeal.

Writing this review six months later, several things have stuck with me about the book.
Firstly, the fact that Communism did work for many people and for those above a certain age, the difficulties in adjusting to the changes were huge, both culturally and financially. No longer were they in a job for life, nor were they supported into their old age - and many did not have sufficient time ahead to earn enough for their retirement.

At the time that the book was written (1996-1999) Draculic seemed unable to envision a time when Croatia might become in any way truly Western. The title refers to the cafes that sprung up in Eastern Europe, pertaining to be like their Western counterparts but falling well short of the mark, but the Croatia that I visited in 2010 seemed to be making its mark in modern Europe. I saw few old communist style vehicles, for example, and even though I was searching for signs of the old regime, there seemed little of it left.

One or two anecdotes also stuck with me, particularly the problem of smuggling items such as vacuum cleaners across the border from Austia bacause they were either too expensive or not available back home. One vacuum cleaner absorbed the entire allowance, and that was even with a false receipt for its cost written by the seller.

I don't think I would have got as much out of the book had I read it at a different time and place but it was fascinating to realise how much the country had changed in such a relatively short space of time.
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Location: Rowlands Castle, United Kingdom

Top Reviewer Ranking: 1,643