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Book Review: Romance Language by Alan Elsner

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Alan Elsner's Romance Language is a love story between an American Journalist and a Romanian Poet. The story takes place both in 1989, against a backdrop of the Ceausescu regime juxtaposed with modern day Romania in 2007 seen through the eyes of their daughter Petra. The book begins when Petra O’Neill, a 17-year old takes it upon herself to go and find her real father in Romania after she discovers in a letter that her father, who has just died, is not her biological father. Instead her real father is Stefan Petrescu, a poet from Romania. Angry at her mother for keeping this a secret from her and confused because she believes her life so far to be a lie, she embarks on the crusade to Romania without her mother’s knowledge.

The action plays out not only through the characters but through letters that Petra's mother Elisabeth writes to her daughter describing what happened to her in Romania in 1989 and how she met Stefan, her brief love affair with him and the reasons why he never knew she was pregnant with his child.

The fact that a central character like Elizabeth is a journalist gives us an insight into the downfall of Communism in the Eastern Bloc as she describes her time there covering stories on Poland and East Germany, as well as the turmoil and eventual revolution in Romania to overthrow the Dictator Ceausescu, which is quite fascinating in itself.

Elsner has done well to conjure up what it would have been like in Romania under a communist Dictator and the sheer effort it took for a rebellion against a regime that seemed like it could never be overthrown.

A drawback for me was a lot of the storyline was a bit too convenient. However, if you’re a sucker for romance this book has that aplenty, set to a backdrop of a revolution that makes it an exciting and escapist tale. The women characters are strong and the men are romantic, almost giving it a 'Mills and Boon' essence (Mills & Boon is a British publisher of romance novels), and of course there is a happy ending.

If you want a quick read Romance Language would be a perfect book to go on holiday with or simply read whilst you commute to work.

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