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An Exclusive Love: A Memoir

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A renowned cultural journalist delivers an extraordinary account of her grandparents by reconstructing, hour by hour, the day of their suicide. Johanna Adorján's grandparents were unconventionally elegant and endlessly exotic; they survived the Holocaust, fled Budapest during the uprising of 1956, and lived a glamorous and mysterious life in Denmark—their pasts never discu A renowned cultural journalist delivers an extraordinary account of her grandparents by reconstructing, hour by hour, the day of their suicide. Johanna Adorján's grandparents were unconventionally elegant and endlessly exotic; they survived the Holocaust, fled Budapest during the uprising of 1956, and lived a glamorous and mysterious life in Denmark—their pasts never discussed, even within the family. An Exclusive Love is Adorján's poignant and loving reconstruction of what may have happened on the day of their deaths, when Adorján was just twenty. Investigating the rich and surprising story of their lives, Adorján reveals the compromises they made and risks they took, and what it meant for her own family. This memoir tells of a couple's extravagant devotion to each other, and their granddaughter's later discovery of complex personalities, long-buried family secrets, and why they ultimately decided, together, to take their own lives. W. G. Sebald's translator Anthea Bell renders Adorján's brilliantly constructed, powerfully concise memoir with stunning clarity. Beautifully written, tender but never sentimental, An Exclusive Love is a vivid portrait of a true twentieth-century couple. .


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A renowned cultural journalist delivers an extraordinary account of her grandparents by reconstructing, hour by hour, the day of their suicide. Johanna Adorján's grandparents were unconventionally elegant and endlessly exotic; they survived the Holocaust, fled Budapest during the uprising of 1956, and lived a glamorous and mysterious life in Denmark—their pasts never discu A renowned cultural journalist delivers an extraordinary account of her grandparents by reconstructing, hour by hour, the day of their suicide. Johanna Adorján's grandparents were unconventionally elegant and endlessly exotic; they survived the Holocaust, fled Budapest during the uprising of 1956, and lived a glamorous and mysterious life in Denmark—their pasts never discussed, even within the family. An Exclusive Love is Adorján's poignant and loving reconstruction of what may have happened on the day of their deaths, when Adorján was just twenty. Investigating the rich and surprising story of their lives, Adorján reveals the compromises they made and risks they took, and what it meant for her own family. This memoir tells of a couple's extravagant devotion to each other, and their granddaughter's later discovery of complex personalities, long-buried family secrets, and why they ultimately decided, together, to take their own lives. W. G. Sebald's translator Anthea Bell renders Adorján's brilliantly constructed, powerfully concise memoir with stunning clarity. Beautifully written, tender but never sentimental, An Exclusive Love is a vivid portrait of a true twentieth-century couple. .

30 review for An Exclusive Love: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    UPDATE: Three years later! I must have been a more ruthless with my ratings years ago. I'm changing my 3 stars to 5 stars. NEW REVIEW: This is **DEEPLY AFFECTING** ....(even years later!) Its a memoir -written by the granddaughter. The reader immediately knows the ending --but not the path that leads them there. Within the pages the granddaughter creates a snapshot image-with dialogue- between her grandparents- on the morning they took their lives together in their Denmark apt. after loving and li UPDATE: Three years later! I must have been a more ruthless with my ratings years ago. I'm changing my 3 stars to 5 stars. NEW REVIEW: This is **DEEPLY AFFECTING** ....(even years later!) Its a memoir -written by the granddaughter. The reader immediately knows the ending --but not the path that leads them there. Within the pages the granddaughter creates a snapshot image-with dialogue- between her grandparents- on the morning they took their lives together in their Denmark apt. after loving and living together for 50 years. They tidied up and took care of details. A bill was found from the locksmith- who opened the door, on the morning of their death. The couple was found holding hands in bed together. (a duel suicide) "The Right To Die" law was not a discussion in 1991 (not a serious one as it is becoming today -in 2015) - I highly recommend reading this small treasure. (clean prose ..not mushy or sentimental) OLD REVIEW: I just finished reading this book this afternoon (a gift for my birthday). First line of the book: "On 13 October 1991 my grandparents killed themselves". (powerful --grabs your attention 'fast'). Hungarian Jewish Married couple (both survived the Holocaust) --are found dead --in bed --holding hands. The granddaughter, (author), Jonanna Adorjan, tells this sensitive story--a mix of fact and fiction. (translated by Anthea Bell). Deeply affecting! elyse

  2. 4 out of 5

    Cassandra

    I have had this book in my possession for about a month now, if not a little longer. I've been reading it all that time, off and on. All 185 pages of it. It might seem odd that it took so long for me to read such a short book, but it was a difficult one to read. I was hesitant to write about it, but I decided to go ahead. Reading the book helped me to exorcise a few demons. Perhaps writing about it will let me let go of a few more. The experience of reading Johanna Adorjan's memoir about her quest I have had this book in my possession for about a month now, if not a little longer. I've been reading it all that time, off and on. All 185 pages of it. It might seem odd that it took so long for me to read such a short book, but it was a difficult one to read. I was hesitant to write about it, but I decided to go ahead. Reading the book helped me to exorcise a few demons. Perhaps writing about it will let me let go of a few more. The experience of reading Johanna Adorjan's memoir about her quest to understand the circumstances surrounding the suicide of her grandparents was a difficult one. The text is not difficult to read. The translation is beautiful.* It was hard for me to read because I have also lost two grandparents to suicide. Reading about her experiences talking with friends and family, trying to piece together what happened in those last days, was...familiar. I remember having those conversations. That was not what made it hard, however. Her personal experiences only make up about half of the story. The other half of the book is devoted to imagining how her grandparents spent that last day together. It was that story that really got to me. The grandparents that I lost were not married. My dad lost his dad, and my mom lost her mom. It happened several years apart. I know, more or less, how my grandpa spent his last day. My grandma - his wife - told me the story. She tried to stop him. He was very ill and did not have long to live. He did not want to be a burden to her. I do not know what my grandmother did that day. I have not given it a lot of thought. There had always been some tension between the two of us. Thinking about that day makes me remember the things we said to each other - that she said to me. In reading this book, I found myself thinking of things that I had not even considered, and it made me sad. I have not been sad about her death before. I do not like being sad. I would rather be angry. Or numb. When I felt the sadness, I put down the book. That is why it took so long to read. Last night, I was finally able to finish it. Normally, when I write about something that I have read, I pay attention to the story. I look at the style. I get to know the characters. With this book, it was a different experience. I noticed all of those things, but they are not what I want to talk about. I want to tell my readers about the effect that Adorjan's writing had on this reader. It let me be sad. I am sad for her and the family she lost. I am sad for her grandparents who could not bear the thought of living apart. I am sad that they had to live through the Holocaust. But I am glad they lived. I am glad that they had children, and that they had a granddaughter who cared enough about them to share their story. I am glad that I read it. And that it made me sad.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    The author’s grandparents, Hungarian Holocaust survivors who moved to Denmark as refugees, committed suicide together on October 13, 1991. Her grandfather, an orthopedic surgeon who had been in an Austrian concentration camp, was terminally ill and his wife was determined not to live a day without him. This short, elegant memoir alternates Adorján’s imagined reconstruction of her grandparents’ last day with an account of their life together, drawn from family memories and interviews with those w The author’s grandparents, Hungarian Holocaust survivors who moved to Denmark as refugees, committed suicide together on October 13, 1991. Her grandfather, an orthopedic surgeon who had been in an Austrian concentration camp, was terminally ill and his wife was determined not to live a day without him. This short, elegant memoir alternates Adorján’s imagined reconstruction of her grandparents’ last day with an account of their life together, drawn from family memories and interviews with those who knew them. She wonders whether, like Primo Levi and Arthur Koestler, theirs was a typically Jewish failure to fit in wherever they went, and/or a particularly Hungarian melancholy. “The answer is their great love,” the newspaper report of their death insisted. Reviewed with five other “love” titles for a Valentine’s-themed post on my blog, Bookish Beck.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    This is one of the most poignant books I’ve ever read, and it’s intensely thought-provoking. It’s also another example of Text Publishing having the courage to generate debate about contentious issues… An Exclusive Love is a memoir of the author’s grandparents, Hungarian Jews who took their own lives in Copenhagen in 1991. He was 82, and dying; she was only 71, and in good health. Together they had survived the horrors of the Holocaust, and escaped Budapest during the 1956 uprising against the op This is one of the most poignant books I’ve ever read, and it’s intensely thought-provoking. It’s also another example of Text Publishing having the courage to generate debate about contentious issues… An Exclusive Love is a memoir of the author’s grandparents, Hungarian Jews who took their own lives in Copenhagen in 1991. He was 82, and dying; she was only 71, and in good health. Together they had survived the horrors of the Holocaust, and escaped Budapest during the 1956 uprising against the oppressive Communist regime; but they could not envisage separation from one another and so when his illness became terminal they ended their lives together. It seems logical, perhaps even romantic, but like all suicides, it leaves the remaining loved ones bereft. For some families left behind, it is a torment not to know why, and even though the ‘reason’ for her grandparents’ action seems evident, this book is an attempt by Adorján to make sense of what happened. She can only tell their story in fragments because she can’t find out much about them, and she creatively imagines their last day together. The book is written with empathy and affection for them, but it seems to me that the author wrote it in an attempt to reconcile herself about what happened and to ease her troubled mind. To read the rest of my thoughts about this intriguing book, please visit http://anzlitlovers.wordpress.com/201...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kristina

    This deeply personal and heartbreaking memoir was eloquent and understated. How should someone approach the suicide of a loved one? How much do we really want to know about our family histories? I found some comfort in knowing that the author’s grandparents’ suicides were not unexpected. Still conveying a palpable sense of loss, the author made a thorough journey in retracing (and sometimes connecting) the severed threads of her grandparents’ lives to help keep their memories alive.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tawnya

    I was expecting so much more from this book. I feel like the author strung me along, hoping to see even a glimpse of her grandparents' lives, but was very disappointed. All of her interviews revealed little, her insights were generic, and I wasn't interested at all in her personal story that she tried to interweave with her grandparents' lives. I think the choice her grandparents' made was solid. The grandfather was terminal and his wife chose to end her life with him. They were in their late 80 I was expecting so much more from this book. I feel like the author strung me along, hoping to see even a glimpse of her grandparents' lives, but was very disappointed. All of her interviews revealed little, her insights were generic, and I wasn't interested at all in her personal story that she tried to interweave with her grandparents' lives. I think the choice her grandparents' made was solid. The grandfather was terminal and his wife chose to end her life with him. They were in their late 80's and I wasn't moved to tears over their choice. Maybe that makes me callous, but they couldn't have been more prepared to end their lives. They lived full lives and they stuck together. There's something honest and good about that.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rick

    In October of 1991, an elderly couple, one healthy and the other not, deliberately and carefully took their own lives in Denmark. They were aided by an American book called Final Exit. They took their dog to a neighbor’s, saying they were going away for the weekend, tidied the house, settled accounts, and left small gifts for family members. Hungarian Jews, the couple had survived the Holocaust—Istvan was imprisoned in concentration camps but Vera managed to evade arrest. Later they had to manag In October of 1991, an elderly couple, one healthy and the other not, deliberately and carefully took their own lives in Denmark. They were aided by an American book called Final Exit. They took their dog to a neighbor’s, saying they were going away for the weekend, tidied the house, settled accounts, and left small gifts for family members. Hungarian Jews, the couple had survived the Holocaust—Istvan was imprisoned in concentration camps but Vera managed to evade arrest. Later they had to manage another escape, this time to Denmark as Soviet tanks were crushing the 1956 Hungarian uprising. So, their granddaughter, the author, wonders, why after all that did they kill themselves? Adjorjan recreates for the reader two parallel narratives: one, a fact-based but fictionalized account of her grandparents last day; second, the author’s interweaving of memory and research into her grandparents lives. The first is a spare, true to the character of her grandparents and their relationship recreation of events and stems from the simple question, “What do people do on the morning they know will be their last?” Mostly, they carry out their plan and do what they usually do: talk quietly with one another about their tasks, the weather, listen to music they love, wash, dress, eat and rest. It’s a quiet poignancy that builds over these small chore-filled chapters with ordinary conversations sprinkled with ordinary endearments. This is a Spartan, disciplined, self-contained couple. “My grandfather stops outside a yellow house. He switches the engine off. The dog, panting heavily now, gets up on her hind legs, looks out the window, and wags her tail faster and faster. My grandmother puts on a pair of sunglasses. Her eyes are invisible behind the large, dark lenses. ‘You must say goodbye to each other now,’ says my grandmother.” The second narrative is more varied and episodic: set pieces that recall her grandparents from her own youth, interviews with relatives and friends, stories prompted by sifting through papers and photographs. These too have their modest revelations. She uncovers missing pieces of their story—her grandfather’s service in Korea, for example. Fails to uncover others—how her mother managed to elude arrest during the Nazi occupation of Hungary. The author recognizes herself in her grandmother, in many small ways. Her grandmother was the healthy one but the one who feared being alone. The twin narratives are intriguing and moving and Adorjan writes with a restraint that her grandparents would appreciate, but with a compassion and sensitivity that the reader appreciates. It’s a tough job, in this era of loud look at me books and television, to write so delicately and so meaningfully about two people who made and carried out such a personal decision. Adjoran manages this tough job with grace.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Heidi

    How can a first line like this – “On 13 October 1991 my grandparents killed themselves” – do other than compel you to go on. Like many of us, Adorjan comes late to her curiosity about her grandparents’ lives. Years after their joint suicide, she serves as both sleuth and devoted granddaughter as she interviews family and ninety-something friends, some reluctant, others cooperative, and seamlessly joins fact with imagination to piece together a riveting account of their mysterious lives and extra How can a first line like this – “On 13 October 1991 my grandparents killed themselves” – do other than compel you to go on. Like many of us, Adorjan comes late to her curiosity about her grandparents’ lives. Years after their joint suicide, she serves as both sleuth and devoted granddaughter as she interviews family and ninety-something friends, some reluctant, others cooperative, and seamlessly joins fact with imagination to piece together a riveting account of their mysterious lives and extraordinary deaths. There is an immediacy to her discoveries, as if the reader has been invited to learn about Vera and Pista at the same time as Adorjan herself. Best example is when she finds out that her pervading sense of not belonging to anyone, of not being loved, or loved enough, was an insecurity shared by her grandmother. There is palpable relief and joy for her in that epiphany, as if she’s been given a treasure. “I’m not crazy after all,” she says. The first few pages struck me with their almost flippant tone. Adorjan makes no apology for this. But I love it when a few pages in, she describes how she and her father are “deliberately casual” when they tour Manthausen, the concentration camp in Austria in which her paternal grandfather had been confined just before the end of WWII. In this understated way, she lets us know what to expect when she is deeply moved. What rings out loudest, of course, is the unsentimental insight, detail and compassion she brings to bear on imagining how the day unfolds on 13 October 1991. Reality, I thought, could hardly register more deeply or truthfully. This small, powerful book engaged me from the first page to the last.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Emily Goenner

    I understand the title but also think it makes the book appear to be a romance novel, which it is in the sense it’s about love, but not in the sense of Romance Novel. It’s a memoir by the granddaughter of a couple who committed suicide together when the husband got fatally ill. The couple—Pista and Vera-- married just before WWII and were Jewish. She, writer/granddaughter, tells their story through her story of interviews with people who knew them and her memories of them; she interweaves that w I understand the title but also think it makes the book appear to be a romance novel, which it is in the sense it’s about love, but not in the sense of Romance Novel. It’s a memoir by the granddaughter of a couple who committed suicide together when the husband got fatally ill. The couple—Pista and Vera-- married just before WWII and were Jewish. She, writer/granddaughter, tells their story through her story of interviews with people who knew them and her memories of them; she interweaves that with trying to imagine what their last day was like and trying to understand why they killed themselves, particularily Vera who was very healthy. Pista survived a concentration camp (but never spoke about it), was an orthopedic surgeon, went to the Korean war with a communist Hungarian hospital, then feld Hungary and rebuilt their lives in Denmark. Love has so many facets in the book, which is the title but is so much less trite than the title sounds. Vera never believed anyone but her husband loved her and couldn’t face life without him. She worked as a physical therapist before melding into the Danish housewife role. Pista always honored and adored Vera. There’s a clear love of classical music woven throughout their lives, love of friends, love for their dog, all faced against this unspeakable act that seems so selfish and unloving to their granddaughter. Then, all of this is set against their secular Judiasm. The writer tries to figure out what being Jewish meant to them and what it means to her. Really, a very sad, very thoughtful, very deep book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Vince

    Johanna Adorján’s paternal grandparents, Hungarian Jews who survived the Holocaust and fled Budapest during the uprising in 1956, commit suicide in 1991. An Exclusive Love traces their lives together, as well as recreates their final days. The book is both a testament to their love and the record of a grieving family member attempting to make peace with their decision. Adorján has clear affection for her grandparents, and even appears to understand their decision to end their lives together. And Johanna Adorján’s paternal grandparents, Hungarian Jews who survived the Holocaust and fled Budapest during the uprising in 1956, commit suicide in 1991. An Exclusive Love traces their lives together, as well as recreates their final days. The book is both a testament to their love and the record of a grieving family member attempting to make peace with their decision. Adorján has clear affection for her grandparents, and even appears to understand their decision to end their lives together. And yet she, like so many of the family members and friends she interviews in the book, are not truly at peace with how her grandparents’ lives ended. In An Exclusive Love she attempts to connect the dots of a set of lives that leads to such a troubling, and ultimately deeply romantic, decision. There is not much meat to An Exclusive Love. The tale of told simply. The language is clean, unadorned with flowery language or imagery. It is a simple examination, not only of Adorján’s grandparents, but also of the historical climate in which they lived. It’s as much a tragic love story as it is an exploration into how our history can affect our present. An Exclusive Love was read as part of the 2015 Reading Challenge. Category: A Book That Was Originally Written In Another Language (German)

  11. 5 out of 5

    Moushine Zahr

    This is the first novel I've read from Dannish author Johanna Adorjan. This book was written about 16 years after the death by suicide of the author's grandparents. Part of the novel is a detailed step by step fiction story of how the author's grandparents lived their last day from the moment they woke up til the moment they slept for ever at night. A second part is a biography based on interviews of the grandparents from their native country in Hungary starting in the 1930's until their exile t This is the first novel I've read from Dannish author Johanna Adorjan. This book was written about 16 years after the death by suicide of the author's grandparents. Part of the novel is a detailed step by step fiction story of how the author's grandparents lived their last day from the moment they woke up til the moment they slept for ever at night. A second part is a biography based on interviews of the grandparents from their native country in Hungary starting in the 1930's until their exile to Denmark in the 1950's. This book highlights a truth very common to all readers: We know our parents and grandparents only since after we're born and old enough, but we don't know much about their lives prior to our birth unless they talked to about it and we care enough to listen. This book was good for the author to learn more about her family and to overcome the trauma felt upon facing the suicide of her grandparents. Readers who know the author and/or are part of her life should read this novel. However, for the common readers half away accross the globe, the book seems light in content and depth, which is normal because the author didn't live any of the events mentioned, but only imagined what her grandparents experienced during their entire lives. Prior to arriving to Denmark, the grandfather, especially, suffered a great deal: concentration camp in Hungary during a year, communism in Hungary, Korean war, and exile. These themes are not described enough in great detail. These are potential material sources of for upcoming novels from the same author or to be read in books from other novels. if a reader has family members with similar history, the reader will be interested in reading this book. If not, readers might not be interested in this book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Dindy

    An Exclusive Love by Johanna Adorján “On 13 October 1991 my grandparents killed themselves,” the first sentence of An Exclusive Love, a memoir by Johanna Adorján grabs the reader and does not let go until the end. Reported without emotion - but not without beauty - as a news reporter does best, (Adorján is a cultural journalist), the reader immediately knows the ending but not the infinitesimal details, so worth paying attention to, of the path that leads one there. Shocking to the reader, still An Exclusive Love by Johanna Adorján “On 13 October 1991 my grandparents killed themselves,” the first sentence of An Exclusive Love, a memoir by Johanna Adorján grabs the reader and does not let go until the end. Reported without emotion - but not without beauty - as a news reporter does best, (Adorján is a cultural journalist), the reader immediately knows the ending but not the infinitesimal details, so worth paying attention to, of the path that leads one there. Shocking to the reader, still reeling from the harsh beginning, is presented succinctly but no less forceful when Adorján recounts the final entry in the official folder of the suicide. One last punch before the book closes is from the Danish police file is the bill from the locksmith who opened the door of her grandparents’ home - $297 kroner. The reader sees the door open and imagines the scene beyond it. Grandparents are an enigma. The tales they tell are often about our parents when they were young as if the near past was more important than decades that came before. In An Exclusive Love we are privy to not only the author’s memories but also the intimate thoughts of people from each stage of her grandparents’ (Vera and Istvan) life. The recent passing of Dr. Jack Kevorkian evokes the polarizing discussion of “death with dignity.” Some called him “Dr. Death” and opposed his methods. Some called him the “angel of mercy.” The Federal Government has recused itself from the conversation and handed the reins to each state to determine if and when assisted suicide is legal. A private matter and a private choice, Vera and Istvan did not ask permission from anyone but each other. An Exclusive Love is a painful and engrossing detail of the day that Adorján’s grandparents acted on their suicide pact. Throughout the memoir, the author stays gently in the background allowing her grandparents their contemporaries and family members to re-construct the days, hours, and minutes leading up to their mutual suicide in 1991. Timing is everything and Adorján graciously inserts herself into the story calling forth her conversations and experiences with her beloved, mysterious forbears. In the early 90s the Hemlock Society was operating covertly in the United States and its book, Final Exit was impossible to find except via the Internet. Founded in 1980 by Derek Humphry, The Hemlock Society’s mission was to help people like his wife Jean and reform the laws about doctor-assisted suicide. Aware of the book, Vera locates it, reads it and the suicide pact is in place. Planned and painless at the end, quietly so that nobody would attempt to intervene, Vera and Istvan slip into the next realm together as they have been for decades. A graceful shift into dialogue between her grandparents on the Sunday morning that is the focal point of the story shows a couple who have lived with and loved each for 50 years. They survived the Holocaust and reconstructed their life – not obliterating the past - once settled in Copenhagen. “She goes into the kitchen to wash the ashtrays she has collected from the guestroom and the front hall. Everything must be neat and tidy. She doesn’t want to cause any hassle. No one must find her decision a nuisance.” The grandmother’s internal dialogue continues to rend the readers’ heart. Page after page the reader finds another snapshot of the day that causes tears to flood the page. “You must say goodbye to each other now,” says Adorján’s grandmother. The grandfather holding Mitzi, their dog, kisses her nose, strokes her head and squeaks out goodbye. The beauty of An Exclusive Love is the twofold – the memory of the event and the words carefully selected to convey it. In the tradition of Joan Didion’s 2007 memoir The Year of Magical Thinking, this intensely personal telling of exceptional love and loss is one to read over an over again reminding us why we read. To find ourselves through the stories of others, find out why we are here and what we ultimately want for ourselves. Adorján resides in Berlin and is an editor of the Allegemeine Zeitung’s culture section. An Exclusive Love is her first book. Based in the U.K., Anthea Bell is an award-winning translator of a range of work including W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz and the Inkworld trilogy by Cornelia Funke.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Daisy

    What an exercise in coming to terms (maybe) with the unanswered questions left behind after suicide. And what a stunning, concise story of the author's paternal grandparents' lives, of what they meant to each other, what they meant to her and to family and friends. In spare prose, it's almost a novella. I kept pretending it was fiction until somewhere she refers to her own last name and how it was altered to sound less Jewish, more Hungarian. Adorján's writing is unsentimental even about potenti What an exercise in coming to terms (maybe) with the unanswered questions left behind after suicide. And what a stunning, concise story of the author's paternal grandparents' lives, of what they meant to each other, what they meant to her and to family and friends. In spare prose, it's almost a novella. I kept pretending it was fiction until somewhere she refers to her own last name and how it was altered to sound less Jewish, more Hungarian. Adorján's writing is unsentimental even about potentially over-wrought subjects like death, suicide, aging, concentration camps. She wonders about identity, who a person is in the world and who a person is in her family; what is typically Jewish, typically Hungarian, if there are such things. And she knows that even in researching her own family members, their story and how it relates to her own and herself, that to ask too many questions would be invasive. It's not all necessarily her business. This was an engrossing, fast read which I began last night before bed and finished this morning before lunch. I wish I had access to the classical music mentioned so I could play it along as a soundtrack to this book. (I know nothing about classical music.)* Ferenc Erkel's Hunyado László Bach's A minor violin concerto--Menuhin, David Oistrakh György Ligeti Wagner's "Liebestod" from Tristan and Isolde Schumann's piano concerto library book--good enough to own *Wait: now I know to go to youtube to play these selections--and to do it while you're reading about them.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Glynnis Forsberg

    I really enjoyed this book. I read this for my English class in college and I thought Adorjan writes really well. Instead of chapters there's moments where. The two parallel stories that she is writing really comes nicely in the end. How she ends the book was a surprising turn, but I don't think that it could have ended any better, to be honest. As I read it I began to think on whether Johanna was writing for her readers or more for herself. She brings up an interesting question when I finally f I really enjoyed this book. I read this for my English class in college and I thought Adorjan writes really well. Instead of chapters there's moments where. The two parallel stories that she is writing really comes nicely in the end. How she ends the book was a surprising turn, but I don't think that it could have ended any better, to be honest. As I read it I began to think on whether Johanna was writing for her readers or more for herself. She brings up an interesting question when I finally finished the book: Does death have to happen in order for someone to grow a sense of appreciation for them? The relationship that is portrayed between Vera and Pista, Adorjan's grandparents, was creatively written and I felt like I was actually in the room when Adorjan brings us to the world where her grandparents are preparing their last days of being on this earth. Overall, Adorjan made this book not only a memoir, but also a little bit of fiction since (she's imagining how her grandparents were getting ready). I love this book and think that people should really read this! It's not too long either and it goes by quickly. There aren't chapters, but rather scenes where they break. I finished this book within two weeks. If you read it first hand, I think you'll enjoy this two, especially if you are fascinated with hearing stories of survivors from the holocaust and a love “which was so exclusive, so needy, so great, and ultimately conditional” (107).

  15. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte Jones

    I feel insensitive giving this book such a low rating but I think that this wasn't anything like I expected and though it is based on fact, at points it didn't seem very realistic. The main reason for this is that the majority of the book consists of Johanna speculating on what her grandparents did on their last day as they prepared to take their own lives. This should have been upsetting or moving, but I feel as though the writing style was to blame for this feeling of distance. This may have b I feel insensitive giving this book such a low rating but I think that this wasn't anything like I expected and though it is based on fact, at points it didn't seem very realistic. The main reason for this is that the majority of the book consists of Johanna speculating on what her grandparents did on their last day as they prepared to take their own lives. This should have been upsetting or moving, but I feel as though the writing style was to blame for this feeling of distance. This may have been more the fault of the translator but I felt that I didn't connect to any of the people described in this book. Also, the synopsis is a little misleading as it puts a lot of emphasis on the author's grandparents surviving the Holocaust but as a reader, I felt like there wasn't much really written about their pasts. It was shrouded in secrecy, which is understandable but I feel that because of this I didn't really know much about the two grandparents who I should have cared about whilst reading this. Though this was an interesting memoir that is written in a very simple way, overall it was very distant and also felt a little too much like fiction in my opinion.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Carola

    I liked this book a lot. well written, interesting concept. Due to my job I have talked to lots of people who have tried to commit suicide. I thought the concept of recounting their last couple of days "what would one do if one knew this was ones last day by choice" was very well done. Made me sad and laugh at times. Would definitely recommend this! I liked this book a lot. well written, interesting concept. Due to my job I have talked to lots of people who have tried to commit suicide. I thought the concept of recounting their last couple of days "what would one do if one knew this was ones last day by choice" was very well done. Made me sad and laugh at times. Would definitely recommend this!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sarah-Louise Kelly

    It’s hard to truly encapsulate what made this book so special but given the topic, it is written with empathy but not with exaggeration or drama. It’s a beautiful book with, of course, a dark undertone that doesn’t just speak of the couples choice but also their lives together and how they came to make the decision that they did. It’s about how being a survivor can change your perception of both life and death. It’s about devotion and family but more than anything else, it’s about a couple that l It’s hard to truly encapsulate what made this book so special but given the topic, it is written with empathy but not with exaggeration or drama. It’s a beautiful book with, of course, a dark undertone that doesn’t just speak of the couples choice but also their lives together and how they came to make the decision that they did. It’s about how being a survivor can change your perception of both life and death. It’s about devotion and family but more than anything else, it’s about a couple that loved each other deeply and without restriction. I really recommend this.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Leah

    it was tragic and it was well written, but it was a continuously written piece which I struggle with, and it feels wrong to give any major critique to a story as true as this. I can't imagine myself picking it up again or recommending it any time soon, hence 2 stars. it was tragic and it was well written, but it was a continuously written piece which I struggle with, and it feels wrong to give any major critique to a story as true as this. I can't imagine myself picking it up again or recommending it any time soon, hence 2 stars.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Vonia

    The only reason this is not rated higher is because there were parts I found uninteresting & therefore the pacing seemed to be less than ideal... I feel that the author didn't use very smooth transitions as she went from past to present... Then again, that could have to do with the language barrier and/or translator, rather than her. This is the first memoir-esque account I have read regarding someone using Final Exit to end their lives (Aside from the author himself)... I frequently find t The only reason this is not rated higher is because there were parts I found uninteresting & therefore the pacing seemed to be less than ideal... I feel that the author didn't use very smooth transitions as she went from past to present... Then again, that could have to do with the language barrier and/or translator, rather than her. This is the first memoir-esque account I have read regarding someone using Final Exit to end their lives (Aside from the author himself)... I frequently find translations to be hard to evaluate due to differences that could be negatively and/or positively caused by the process... I have read enough foreign books, nevertheless, that I believe I have a decent handle on what exemplifies fine writing, and I do believe this author has it. The parts that were good, were really good. There were some great quotes, as well as passages that will remain branded in me for a while.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    I was a bit disappointed in this book. I expected a lot more, and instead got what I felt was a lot of repetitive information. I was hoping, based on the way it was advertised, that there would be quite a bit about the author's grandparent's holocaust experience. Instead, this book contains interviews with friend's of her grandparent's as well as the author's own memories which all more or less say the same thing. I'm sure it was a very special book for her and her family, but I just found it a I was a bit disappointed in this book. I expected a lot more, and instead got what I felt was a lot of repetitive information. I was hoping, based on the way it was advertised, that there would be quite a bit about the author's grandparent's holocaust experience. Instead, this book contains interviews with friend's of her grandparent's as well as the author's own memories which all more or less say the same thing. I'm sure it was a very special book for her and her family, but I just found it a monotonous read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ayelet Waldman

    Really really fun book and fun writer.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Marsmannix

    This isn't so much a Holocaust memoir as another self-absorbed author writing about writing her story. ugh. This isn't so much a Holocaust memoir as another self-absorbed author writing about writing her story. ugh.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kamilla

    What a deeply moving book. Even though it was written with much love and adoration for the grandparents, this was such a hard read for so many reasons. It affected me to my core. It was like reading my grandparents's story, my own story to an extent, it brought forth my love for my grandparents and parents, my heritage. I felt deeply saddend when reading, had tears in my eyes throughout, especially towards the end. Even the sentiments in this memoir rang true, that all the treasured bits and pie What a deeply moving book. Even though it was written with much love and adoration for the grandparents, this was such a hard read for so many reasons. It affected me to my core. It was like reading my grandparents's story, my own story to an extent, it brought forth my love for my grandparents and parents, my heritage. I felt deeply saddend when reading, had tears in my eyes throughout, especially towards the end. Even the sentiments in this memoir rang true, that all the treasured bits and pieces (jewellery, etc) become junk to others upon inheritence as noone will understand just how much those pieces meant for their owners. So very sad. This was a deeply affecting book. Beautiful, sad, endearing and utterly moving.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    Johanna Adorján's grandparents committed suicide in 1991, after surviving the Holocaust, escaping from the Soviet's invasion of Hungary, and building a new life for themselves in Denmark. This book is half a (fictionalized) construction of what their last day must have been like, and half research into their lives and the author's reflections on everything. This book affected me deeply. It feels strange to see the lives of two people neatly wrapped up in less than 200 pages, while they contained Johanna Adorján's grandparents committed suicide in 1991, after surviving the Holocaust, escaping from the Soviet's invasion of Hungary, and building a new life for themselves in Denmark. This book is half a (fictionalized) construction of what their last day must have been like, and half research into their lives and the author's reflections on everything. This book affected me deeply. It feels strange to see the lives of two people neatly wrapped up in less than 200 pages, while they contained so much. I'm happy for Pista and Eva, but also incredibly sad. Especially the reconstruction of their last two hours made me cry. Such a well-done, humanizing account of the situation.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Maya Sophia

    I've never quite read a memoir like this, but I absolutely devoured it in one sitting. The synopsis itself is so compelling, but at its core, it's a really interesting exploration of identity: what parts of identity are confined to an individual's lived experience and what parts are shared or inherited. By the end, I kinda felt like I'd been hit upside the head by an emotional cast iron pan, but that's just a testament to how well the author unfolded both her and her grandparents' story. I've never quite read a memoir like this, but I absolutely devoured it in one sitting. The synopsis itself is so compelling, but at its core, it's a really interesting exploration of identity: what parts of identity are confined to an individual's lived experience and what parts are shared or inherited. By the end, I kinda felt like I'd been hit upside the head by an emotional cast iron pan, but that's just a testament to how well the author unfolded both her and her grandparents' story.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rasa Stankevičiūtė

    It is a book about Hungarian Holocaust survivors who moved to Denmark and after happy life there decided to commit a suicide and die together holding hands. Their grandaughter tried to recreate the day of their suicide and put it in a book. Interesting and different novel with historical parts.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Georgia

    Overall a very thought provoking and moving read. It would have been the full 5 stars, however I did feel like there were moments where the author (or maybe the translator?) included observations/sentences for the sake of adding length, rather than providing further depth.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Zabrina Welter

    This is a real life love story... Romeo and Julia type of tragic love...

  29. 4 out of 5

    kayla goggin

    3.5 stars. A spare, short little book that made me have some #thoughts about death, conditional love and co-dependence.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sam Steer

    As a woman with Jewish heritage that I feel I don’t yet fully understand. It intrigued, delighted and moved me. A very valuable and special text.

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