A gut-wrenching, startling window into communist Romania and the citizen spy network that devastated a nation, from the number one New York Times best-selling, award-winning author of Salt to the Sea and Between Shades of Gray.
Romania, 1989. Communist regimes are crumbling across Europe. Seventeen-year-old Cristian Florescu dreams of becoming a writer, but Romanians aren’t free to dream; they are bound by rules and force.
Amidst the tyrannical dictatorship of Nicolae Ceaușescu in a country governed by isolation and fear, Cristian is blackmailed by the secret police to become an informer. He’s left with only two choices: betray everyone and everything he loves—or use his position to creatively undermine the most notoriously evil dictator in Eastern Europe.
Cristian risks everything to unmask the truth behind the regime, give voice to fellow Romanians, and expose to the world what is happening in his country. He eagerly joins the revolution to fight for change when the time arrives. But what is the cost of freedom?
This book didn’t move me the same way Ruta’s previous books did and I needed a longer time to fall into it.
But what this book did was open my eyes on events I had no awareness about! And that’s what I adore about Ruta Sepetys’s books: she revisits history and sheds light on events that were relatively unknown or forgotten in the grand scheme of life.
That story is bleak and horrific.
And I don’t use these words to say that the book is a bad book. Not at all! On the contrary as I think Ruta Sepetys succeeded in immersing me under that suffocating regime or terror, where you mistrust everyone, where you are not free to speak, even in your own bathroom as the regime had cameras and listening devices everywhere!
This was mind boggling, thinking that even in your own house you would be spied upon.
In her author’s note, Ruta Sepetys explained that it was believed that one Romanian on ten was an informant. Most of the time coerced into it, either by blackmail, either in a desperate measure to survive or protect one’s family.
Christian dreams of becoming a writer and studying philosophy at university when his dreams will get threatened.
One day he’ll be forced to become an informer and spy on the US ambassador for the Securitate.
He will try to manipulate his agent and give non interesting information.
But we’ll later discover that his agent was not so naïve.
All along, we’ll realize that his grand-father knew more than was expected from an old man, that someone betrayed Christian but who?
Christian will believe some awful things about some members of his family and close friends, proof that Ceaușescu knew how to divide to reign easily. The story will lead to a crescendo with the revolution and some unexpected truths.
What hurt and shocked in that book was to know that even after the revolution, decades after, families were still without answers about some beloved fate or discovered totally unexpected truths. That must leave gaping wounds in families ‘s souls.
I was horrified to see all the lies that were spun for a whole nation, isolating people in a pocket of oppression without people knowing that in other countries, it was better.
The “letter” or “journal excerpt” read by the end of the book had me in tears.
Should you read this?
Certainly if you love history and even if you don’t love history, to give a voice to the forgotten and to educate you to the tools used by tyrants to rule upon nations.
Thanks for reading!