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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delightful, entertaining and beautifully written book., 24 April 2013
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This review is from: To Romania With Love (Kindle Edition)
At the recent London Book Fair I joined a crowd listening to a live interview. I recognised the face and voice of the broadcaster Tessa Dunlop, and stopped to listen. She was speaking passionately and animatedly about a subject she clearly knew a lot about: Romania. I dredged up my own knowledge of that nation, and found it could be expressed in just two sentences: it had been a Warsaw Pact country under the control of a Stalinist monster called Ceauşescu, who created the most grotesque police state in Eastern Europe (no small feat). He was executed following the collapse of the Iron Curtain, at which point western television audiences began to see harrowing images of neglected orphans disowned by the state. Most of us simply shuddered and hoped that someone would care for them; Ms Dunlop decided to go there and work in one of the orphanages. The result of her travels is a book entitled To Romania With Love. Having listened to her speak for a few minutes, I knew I had to read it.

For an author to win my trust, they must first show me (preferably on the first couple of pages), that irrespective of content, they can use language well. This was quickly achieved, here's an early paragraph:

"I didn't sleep that night. Instead I tasted small country apples, learnt please, thank you and I want in Romanian and pocketed several random addresses that all looked the same. I thrilled an old woman with a Murray Mint. Her naked guns contorted with joy and for a brief second she was a child again. I talked all night with no language; soon I was showing a young woman the contents of my bag. I held up a box of Tampax. She nodded sagely and pocketed two wrapped tampons as souvenirs."

We are not spared any of the horror of post-communist Romania, but the story is told through the lives of ordinary Rumanians whom she comes to know. Against the backdrop of an outlandishly dysfunctional country is a moving story of ordinary people struggling to survive and improve themselves, notably to learn English, which is seen as a passport to prosperity. Dunlop has a clear eye and manages to be emotional without being sentimental; we know we are making this journey in safe hands.

Her friendship with a twelve year old boy named Vlad becomes so close that she persuades a Scottish private school to take him on as a pupil, and gets her family to look after him between terms. Later he will come to play a very different role in the author's life, but I've no wish to betray a surprise ending.

This is a delightful, entertaining and beautifully written book which throws light on a country few of us know anything about. Try it, if you like being pleasantly surprised.
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