Pre-1914 Hungary is one of my special areas of interests and I was very excited to find this book – long lost during the communist area and finally rediscovered.
It follows two Transylvanian cousins and their differing fortunes:
One a politician, achieving and well-liked, the other a gambler, wastrel and anti-hero.
At 600 pages small print this is a book of War and Peace proportions, very rich in historic, socio-cultural, political and general descriptive details.
As I’m contemplating my next book to be set in this era I found this a treasure of information and insights.
The political situation in Hungary from the Transylvanian perspective, representing a provincial and neglected area in a parliament obsessed with Machiavellian operations, family relations, morals and courting – there is much to learn from the rich tapestry provided.
Explanations of people’s reasoning and the background for their decisions illustrate perfectly the way of living, norms and ways of thinking.
As a reader of fiction I like my books admittedly at a faster pace and found much of what I read getting in the way of enjoyment, suspense and intrigue.
Plot developments became predictable 20 – 30 pages before the inevitable happened. Yet, as I’m writing this I must confess that I still couldn’t let go of the book prematurely or skip through it. Despite all criticism the novel has a certain je-ne-sais-quoi, a compelling and attractive element that I find hard to put into words.
I may not have enjoyed all of it and I may not rush to get the second and third part of the trilogy right away, but I’m glad I did read the book and I know curiosity will get the better of me and find those other two parts of the Transylvanian Trilogy.
Overall this proved a fascinating historical tour de force about an area of Europe that has been neglected by historians and politicians alike. Psychological insights into two very different people and another perspective on the Austro-Hungarian Empire coming to it’s fall.