Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Bottled Goods by Sophie van Llewyn


Alina meets her husband, Liviu the summer they both work as tourist guides at a beach town in Romania in the 1970s.  They marry and both work as teachers.  Romania is in a dictatorship and the couple wishes they could live in another country, Germany maybe or Italy.  But leaving is strictly forbidden and every word and act is watched and can be reported.  In fact it is a crime not to report anything done or said that goes against the strict rules of the administration.

When Liviu's brother defects while on a business trip to France, the couple come in for punishment back in Romania.  Liviu is demoted from his job to one hours away.  Alina is reported by someone at work for not reporting an argument between two students, one of whom has a father with an important government position.

Things continue to deteriorate.  Alina is picked up for questioning and taken to a place where torture is carried out on prisoners.  A government official starts to come to her house every week while Liviu is gone.  Liviu is picked up and is not released for three days.  The couple is determined to leave.  Will they be successful?

This book was nominated for the Woman's Prize For Fiction in 2019.  It describes the repressive regime of the Communists in the 1970's, headed up by dictator Nicolae Ceausecu.  The description of the daily life of those who live in fear every day is claustrophic and leaves the reader glad to be reading this in a country that is different.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

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