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An evocative first novel about growing up female in a small Yugoslav village in postwar Europe that tells a familiar story from a fresh perspective: it's part memoir, part docudrama, and part Grimm's fairy tale. Anna is indoctrinated early in school: partisans, socialists, and Russians are good guys, fascists and capitalists orgres--""The world will be red, and the future too."" Quite apart from the party line, however, Anna's mother, a bitter half-mad woman given to beating her children, teaches a kind of religion; and her grandparents, who take her to the country, teach a kind of peasant wisdom. Anna herself, perceptive and bright, notices everything--from the lines for movies and milk and meat to the way women read coffee grounds to the process of de-Stalinization. The author describes her education, both in the classroom and out, and--as the chapters move from season to season--the tone turns elegiac: the grandmother dies, the unmarried stepsister becomes a factory worker and gets pregnant, the mother gets imprisoned and released for political reasons, and puberty arrives. Anna learns ""not to care, not get upset by words or by sticks."" Meanwhile, there is a treasure-trove of gossip and lore: stories and rumors abound; old traditions and new regimes clack for attention in Anna's mind with a quasi-mystical inner voice that she learns to listen to. Late in the book, a letter arrives from England, and her father, long wondered about, begins to send the poor family regular gifts: they rise in their peasant village, and eventually his largesse sends them to America. Altogether, the leisurely narrative wonderfully evokes a bittersweet lost world, full of carefully drawn characters who would be at home in a Chagall painting, where family gossip and myth collaborate with political rumor and petty social conflict.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1988
Publisher: New Rivers--dist. by Talman (150 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10011)