Once, Only the Swallows Were Free

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Once, Only the Swallows Were Free

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If you appreciated Anna Funder's Stasiland, you will find this first-hand account of life in communist Romania fascinating. What was it like to live and love in an atmosphere of mistrust and state paranoia?

Twenty-five years after Gabrielle Gouch left her native land, Transylvania, communism collapsed and the author, now an Australian, returned to visit her half-brother Tom. The years of separation are difficult to erase, but he opens up eventually. In a cosy room with red Persian carpets and photographs of his mother, gentle Tom shares stories of his life, often funny, sometimes heartbreaking but never self-pitying.

Though the story is factual, the author uses her strong eye for detail and the techniques of fiction to create this engaging and thought-provoking account about ordinary people in turbulent times. These sad and funny tales are interleaved with the story of the rest of the family from which Tom became estranged.

This memoir portrays the exodus of Jewish families from Romania and their arrival in the Promised Land, a dream come true for some but a shock for others. It explores issues of identity, disability, emigration and family relationships against a background of the major political events of the time from a perspective that challenges some accepted views.

Through a gripping and beautifully written personal history, Gabrielle Gouch succeeds in creating a memoir as strange and fascinating as fiction.

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