A Long Long Time Ago & Essentially True
Author: Brigid Pasulka
Paperback: 351 pages
Publisher: Mariner Books
Published date: 2009
FTC: Received from Reading Group Choices
I won this book from Reading Group Choices a long while back and I've waited far too long to read it. Isn't the cover just gorgeous? And the title is just awesome. If you haven't ever checked out Reading Group Choices, head on over there. They always have contests going on and a pretty darn cool website for helping you pick out your next good read or books for book clubs. They also just put out their own iPad app which I've been meaning to check out as soon as I can pry my iPad away from my toddler. Anyway back to the book.
On the eve of World War II, a young man nicknamed the Pigeon falls in love with a girl fabled for her angelic looks, and builds his way into her heart by transforming her family's modest hut into a beautiful home. But war arrives, cutting short their courtship and sending the young lovers off to the promise of Krakow.
Nearly fifty years later, their granddaughter repeats this journey, but instead of the whispered prosperity of the New Poland, she discovers a city caught between its future and its past.
Magical, wise, and sometimes even heartbreaking, A Long Long Time Ago and Essentially True weaves together two remarkable stories, re-imagining half a century of Polish history through the legacy of one unforgettable love affair.
What a beautiful book. From the very beginning I was hooked with Pigeon's almost fabled story of falling in love at first sight with beautiful but shy Anielica. Their almost fairy tale "happily ever after" is shattered by the outbreak of World War II, a move from their pastural village to the big city of Krakow, and then a country overtaken by communism.
Alternating chapters is the story of Beata, nicknamed Baba Yaga for her obvious lack in looks. I believe it's mid-late nineties when her story takes place. She's the granddaughter of Pigeon and Anielica. After practically being raised by her grandmother, she takes a big step and moves to the big city of Krakow after the death of Anielica.
What I loved about this story was that it was such an interesting spin on the "coming of age" story. We watch as Beata struggles to figure out who she is and what she wants in her life. She realized that her grandmother didn't talk much about her past and she was very sheltered in the rural village she grew up in. But it isn't just Beata's story - it's a coming of age story for Poland too. After a tumulous 20th century, In the 1990s, Poland had just come out from under the Iron Curtain and were trying to re-find their identity and place in the world. Like Anielica's aunt says, it's one thing to remember your past and another thing to have the freedom to talk about it.
With alternating past/present novels, I usually tend to prefer one story line over the other. I got hooked into this story by falling for Pigeon and Anielica. But I ended up becoming really invested in Beata's story and in a bigger sense, Poland's story. I'm only sorry that I hadn't picked up this book sooner. Loved it.
Also Reviewed By:
Devourer of Books
The Perpetual Page-Turner