THE DAWNING by Milka Bajic-Poderegin


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 ``The dawning'' connotes the brief freedom from foreign domination of a Serbo-Croatian village in this absorbing family saga, its Yugoslavian author's only novel. Baji-Poderegin (190471) worked from 1963 until her death on this first volume of a planned trilogy that was to have fictionalized her country's political and social history from the mid19th century through the end of WW II. It begins dramatically, with the arranged marriage of 15-year-old Savka to her highborn husband, whose later alleged murder by bandits leaves her to raise their daughters alone and schools her in the unpredictability and violence that characterize life in their village (Plevlje). The bulk of the novel, which expertly interweaves the mechanics and dynamics of marriage and family life with the broader issues of accommodation and resistance to both Austro-Hungarian and Turkish occupation, focuses on Savka's eldest daughter, Jelka. Marrying the man she loves in defiance of local custom, Jelka survives the multiple burdens of family conflict, childbearing well on into middle age, the loss of her children and of her husband Janko's devotion, a diphtheria epidemic, and the assassination in Sarajevo that precipitates WW I and once again threatens the villagers' culture with annihilation. The story ends with its focus now trained on Jelka's tenderhearted youngest girl, Milena, who would surely have become the unwritten subsequent novel's central character. This is a fascinating fictional glimpse into an almost forgotten time and place, bearing obvious and powerful relevance to its region's troubled more recent history. The evidence of this wonderfully rich work suggests that Baji-Poderegin, had she lived, might well have rivaled the preeminence of Serbia's Nobel Prizewinning Ivo Andri, the great novelist who undoubtedly influenced her, and whose colorful works her own moving novel essentially resembles.

Pub Date: Oct. 26th, 1995
ISBN: 1-56656-198-1
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Interlink
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1995