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VINE VOICEon 15 August 2002
The type of book where the world melts away around you as you sit, read and dream.
You not so much as read this book as watch the words unfold, creating a cinematic masterpiece of emotion and eloquence.
The book is the age old tale of three people, 2 men and a woman, who are, tragically, bound together by friendship, love and passion. It is also a muse upon life, death and true friendship.
Few modern writers can match the sheer love of language and story telling which this book exudes and, although it has been translated from the German - which in turn was translated from the Hungarian - I feel it loses nothing of its power and intensity.
If you love literature then you should love this book
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on 8 May 2011
Beautifully written, wonderful descriptions, an insight into Middle-European culture of the early 20th century, class, property, memory, the military obligations of the Austrian aristocracy, obsessive love and friendship. Not many laughs but very rewarding to read and reflect on.
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on 20 March 2002
Whilst I am always sceptical of a book that has received so much publicity, I bought it on the strength of its reviews. I was not disappointed and found it a compelling read. Its only weakness is perhaps in its translation. While it is clearly a book with its main strength in its literary imagery, the two words 'as if' crop up so many times as to be irritating.
On reflection, the immensely enthusiastic reviews state 'a conversation' between two ageing friends that had not seen each other for forty-one years. There was little conversation between the two men. The narrative was almost entirely Henrik's. Whilst this is a very clever achievement, I kept wanting Konrad to at least say something to give his character more dimension.

To conclude, although I have my criticisms, there are few (perhaps no) writers of today that can write such prose of such quality
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on 8 December 2012
beautiful, rich, very well written, amazing way to get into the emotions of each character, beautiful flow and climax. Great read.
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on 19 December 2014
Bought this for a book group. Very interesting - though may need to read it again as feel I may have missed something. However, arrived very promptly.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 November 2015
In Sandor Marai's novel 'Embers' we meet Henrik, an elderly general, living a hermetic existence in his castle home situated at the foot of the Carpathian mountains, who is awaiting the arrival his childhood friend, Konrad, a man he has not seen for over forty years. The last day that Henrik and Konrad spent together all those decades ago, is imprinted indelibly on Henrik's mind, for this was the day when he realized that his close friend, with whom he had spent much of his childhood years, had betrayed him - and in more ways than one. To say more would reveal too much of this brief and lyrical story, but suffice it to say, the reason for the estrangement between the two old friends, is slowly and intriguingly revealed throughout the course of the story.

Originally written in Hungarian in 1942, translated into German and subsequently translated from German into English (maybe not ideal - as things sometimes get lost in one translation, let alone two), Sandor Marai's atmospheric novel pulls the reader immediately into his story of love and loss, friendship and fallibility, and makes for fairly compelling reading. However, although this novel certainly engaged my interest, I felt that too much of the novel was related from the perspective of Henrik, who reveals his story in a series of lengthy monologues, and ultimately the reader (or this one, anyhow) longs for the author to allow Konrad to have a voice. That said, I found this an unusual and rather absorbing story and certainly worth the read, but not the 'masterpiece' I was expecting from the quotes on the cover.

3.5 Stars.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 18 January 2009
To review EMBERS is actually quite difficult - in one way I loved the book but in another, there were elements of it which were unsatisfying.
EMBERS is ultimately a book about friendship. The story centres around the friendship of two men - how it began in childhood, and then how it seemingly fizzled out resulting in one of them disappearing for 41 years until they are finally reunited over a last meal.
The difficulty for me is that, in many ways, not a lot happens - it takes a while for Marai to really begin to develop the story - and then when you do get to the end, you somewhat feel as though you have turned into the General yourself, as why Konrad returns is never really explained. And because the book is written mainly from the perspetive of the General, with very little input from Konrad, you never really feel as though he was able to explain what happened between them all those years ago.
However, despite these misgivings, I felt that 3 stars would have been too low as a rating. Marai's writing is beautiful. As the General spins his story, there are truly some profound moments exploring the nature of friendship and in explaining the significance of the yellow velvet diary of his wife. Reading theses excerpts, you do feel as though Marai truly knows what it is to be touched by love, passion and betrayal.
Although I would recommend this novel to people who enjoy reading about the passions of the heart, I would warn you that this is not a book where all of the answers will be given. If you like everything to be neatly tied up at the end, this may not satisfy you.
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on 17 September 2008
It is always interesting when a book from the past - Embers was written in 1942 - gets rediscovered or translated for the first time. A similar thing happened recently with the excellent Suite Française. This is a very different kind of book, though, a nostalgic evocation of the colourful, pluralistic days (for some) of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The story is simple: an aging General sits in his castle in the Carpathian Mountains awaiting his inseparable boyhood friend who he had not seen for forty-one years. However, he had not seen him because his friend had fled after a devastating act of betrayal which had left their lives shattered. Everything is arranged to reproduce the exact conditions, even the meals, of their final meeting before the incident. A profound meditation on the nature of friendship and personal loyalty, much of the novel revolves around a moving monologue by the General to his almost silent friend recounting their lives together and the reality of their duty to each other. Of course, a woman is involved. The evening gets darker and the wine flows as freely as the words. Strongly elegiac in nature Embers is a beautifully written story, rather slow in pace but short enough to overcome that, and is of considerable historical interest. It does, though, contain rather anachronistic notions of pride and duty, and the quaint view that the strongest bond between two human beings is that between two men. Plato may have believed that but I don't. And whatever betrayal someone had committed against me I could never have afforded the luxury of sitting around in my castle and moping about it for forty years. Like most people, I would have to have got a job! Strongly recommended, though.
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on 3 February 2015
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on 17 January 2016
Old but OK
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