THE STORYTELLER: MEMORY, SECRETS, MAGIC AND LIES - Anna Porter I totally loved this book. It enthralled me from beginning to tnd. You learn Hungarian history through marvelous stories. You learn the value of storytelling. I feel that a book like this teaches the reader how it was to live in Hungary through the historical events. I am glad I read this book immediately after:Niki: The Story of a Dog. You get a very Kafkaesque view of life. The total absurdity of life. In one book the main character is Communist, while in the other a wealthy landowning aristocrat. Both end up in prison for absurd reasons. Both were so utterly destroyed by this experience. Anothe important issue is how do you raise a child in such times, when daily life demands that you lie. Nothing is what it seems. The reader comes to understand how such a life might feel. And the women - well they are marvelous. Strong. And Vili, the author's grandfather, you will love him too. As I have shown below, the writing is marvelous.

Through page 176: Here is another little taste of the writing:

"I was eight years old and trying to improve my fencing technique in the basement of the old Piarist school, where the priests weren't allowed to teach real school anymore, although they were allowed to pray as long as they didn't mention the government in their prayers."

"My grandfather use to come and meet me at the end of fencing class on his way home from the button factory. Though he was up earlier than I was and he had been lifting heavy stuff all day, he showed no signs of tiredness. He bounced down the stairs, three at a time, not even holding on to the rail as I did, his patched leather gloves hanging out of his pocket, his light wool coat flapping open like a cape. He never bothered to button up, even on the coldest days. He hadn't bought working clothes for the factory. He wore his old suits. 'What's the sense of saving them?' he'd remonstrate with my grandmother. 'When all this is over, they'll be too old-fashioned to wear. '"

"By "all this" he meant the communist government, but he was too careful to say that out loud."

Look at the cover carefully - there you see grandfather and granddaughter, he in his Hussar uniform! Great photos. I so enjoy reading a hardcover book. I bought it second-hand. Hovever there is no map so you must get out your atlas. I still love it.

Through page 76: And it is funny. Two quotes from page 76 follow:

"My grandmother stood up quickly and marched out of the bedroom without putting on her blue dressing gown. Her nightgown was pink and almost transparent. I was really glad she wore underpants."

"Leah's husband was wearing gis grey overcoat unbuttoned and stood with his back to the fireplace as if to warm himself, although I knew no one had set the fire yet. My mother has said he wasn't very bright."

I will not say what has caused the family upproar. The lines are so absolutely marvelous.... Now I am not going to say anymore. I am just going to sit back and suck up the story of this family living in Hungary during tumultuous times.

Through page 39: I absolutely adore the text. Look at the title of this book: The Storyteller: Memory, Secrets, Magic and Lies. You get exactly that! The author, as well as her grandfather Vili, have the knack for telling stories, ie telling about their lives so they become magical tales, revealing secrets, wonderful and ghastly times, magic and lies. I could quote any paragraph and get you to drool for more. Here is about the author's birth, a good place to start:

"I was born during the German occupation of Hungary. The British and the Americans were bombing Budapest."

"My grandfather had been trying to round up nurses to attend to my mother in the emergency wing of the Frigyesi Hospital. The nurses were too busy with the wounded and the dying to pay attention to a young girl's first birth. My mother was barely seventeen and no one had bothered to tell her about childbirth. It had taken her quite a while to figure out how people got pregnant, and that was shocking enough without the pain that followed. Luckily, Vili had the brilliant idea to knock her out with morphine and extract me howling into the wartorn world."

Here, the author's mother is telling her daughter about how she met her father:

"'I want to tell you about your father,' she said."

"There was no point in telling her I didn't want to hear, so I looked up at her, thinking that if only she would hurry up we could get into the circus where the laughter was getting lounder."

"'There use to be boxes - balconies where whole families sat,' she continued more slowly than I wanted. 'Istvàn was in the next balcony. He had a few friends with him. All, except your father, were in uniform. He was very dashing with his grey felt hat and kid gloves, his striped trousers and the way he came over and kissed Grandma's hand, then Sari's and Leah's (her sisters), and last mine. At sixteen, not many men kiss your hand. He bent right over mine and looked at me the way men use to look at my sisters, not the way anyone had looked at me before......'"

Wait till you read about the sisters.

History and biogarphy and wonderful writing and dialogue. Just my cup of tea.

First few pages: Some authors make you believe your are reading a fairy tale, when it is in fact about real people. In their blood they are storytellers. Here follows a quote from page 18 about Petronella,the paternal grandmother of the author's grandfather. The person speaking is the mother of the author's grandfather. She is speaking to her son about his grandmother:

"The marble of the pool, she told him, had come from the Carpathian Mountains, near his ancestral home. It had been a gift for his grandmother Petronella Racz. She had been a tiny woman, but fearless. It was Petronella who had taught Vili's father, György, to fence. She had been fast on her feet, quick with her blade, and her eyes never wavered. She rode a horse like a man. Her dark hair fanned out behind her, her skirts rode up to her knees, she held the horse so tight between her legs that she could leg go of the reins and still control him. It is how Hungarian ride, effortless, light, always in control."

I love it. History and learning about different cultures, couldn't be more entertaining. So far so good.