It was a strange, uncertain world that Harriet entered when she married Guy Pringle. Guy taught English at the university at Bucharest, a city of vivid contrasts, where professional beggars exist alongside the excesses of mid-European royalty and expatriate journalists with a taste for truffles and quails in aspic. Underlying this is a fitful awareness of the proximity of the Nazi threat to a Romania, which is enjoying an uneasy peace. In this exotic landscape Harriet gets to know her new husband and to wonder at the complexity of the apparently simple man she had married.More
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Excellent Reading of a Fascinating Book
Wonderful cast of characters, starring Bucharest!
This is an involving, atmospheric and intense account of a motley group of British and Romanian characters in Bucharest, watching, fearing, sensing the ever closer presence of the Germans in 1939/40. The book ends with the fall of France and the apparent impotence of the British Army to protect Europe and especially Bucharest and is notable for providing a brilliant portrait of this gilded and vulnerable city, its people, the buildings, the cafes and hotels. It centres around a newly married English couple and their friends, including a pathetic White Russian English eduated prince down on his luck who scrounges off anyone and everyone. Olivia Manning's brilliance lies her characterisation, including creating a potentially dislikeable herione with whom you continue to epmpathise.
It is the first of the Balkan trilogy by Olivia Manning following the couples' flight from Bucharest to, eventually, Cairo. In its scope and setting it could be compared to The Alexandria Quartet (Gerald Durrell) and even The Raj Quartet (Paul Scott) though both of these have the reputation of dealing with this period with more political intensity and psychologically insight. I'm not sure I agree with this view.
It takes an actress of great range to portray the cast of characters covered by this book. She gives them all a distinct and recognisable voice. In particular she manages to portray both the bitchiness of Harriet, the heroine, as well as her more admirable qualities.