ILONA by Hans Habe


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In translation from the German by Michael Bullock, this is a long, panoramic and absorbing novel of Europe during two wars, reflected through the lives of a mother, daughter and granddaughter. Hona, born in 1886, the daughter of a station master in Hungary, is a traditional great beauty who becomes a young count's mistress at 17. Pregnant, at the time of his accidental death, she accepts the protection of a Prince and marriage to an old Baron, who gives the child his name. The Prince is impotent, but brilliant and wise and educates Hona while her sister cares for the child, Zita. Their life is one of great wealth, dignity and affection, and remains faithful to the Prince until he is sent to St. Peler where she her childhood sweetheart, now a famous conductor, Zoltan. War breaks out. The Prince her home to safety, but she becomes a nurse and follows Zoltan to the front lines. Meanwhile Zita has grown up, resenting her mother's attraction for men, her unfalling luck and charm, and she drifts from one man, one idea, to another in restless postwar Germany. Hona has finally married a charming half-Jewish publisher, while Zita's second marriage is to a young Nazl. In the next war, Zita's husband is killed, while Hona escapes to America and returns after the war to raise Zita's daughter, Eva, who like Hona, is content with love and lucky with her men. Zita has killed herself.... The book is expansive, simply written, perhaps a little simplified. But the people are all distinct and interesting and their interweaving stories and personalities reflect accurately a sense of the stupendous historical changes of the century in which they live. It may well prove to be Habe's most popular book in some years.

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 1961
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace & World