Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

August Books 49) The Angel Makers, by Jessica Gregson

If I hadn't somehow come across its author here on livejournal, I might not have picked up The Angel Makers, and that would have been a shame: this is a gripping narrative of a Hungarian village during and after the first world war, whose women resort to murdering their husbands when they return from the army. Almost all the action takes place in the village, stifled and trapped by the monotony of the Pannonian Plain - I saw one review which found this setting unrealistic - clearly by someone who had never been there!

In particular, the central character, Sari Arany (which we can accept as a translatuion convention: in Hungarian she would have been Arany Sari) is a fascinating figure, developing from introspective teenager to being the village midwife, registrar and procurer of poison. The chain of events is triggered by the billeting of captive Italian soldiers in Sari's boyfriend's family home, with all the emotional and sexual opportunities they offer for the women of the village. Sari's unwilling entanglement is entirely credible, and somehow inevitable. She pleads towards the end of the book that she was simply trying to do something for herself, and it rings true.

I read a lot of historical / political literature about conflict, and it tends to centre around the men who dominate historical discourse; The Angel Makers made me think about the histories that are not told. yiskah gives Sari a satisfying end to the story, which (having checked up a little on the historical incident on which the story is based) is perhaps a little bit unrealistic, but even so it is done in a way which stuck in my mind. An excellent read.
Tags: bookblog 2009

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