"Even when the rainbow seems to pass right by me....I'm still finding Gold in the clouds....."

25 October 2015

2015 Book Review #38: Land of the Green Plums

My oldest daughter took a Nobel Prize Literature course while she was at Gordon College.  She recommended I read this book by the author who escaped her home country to settle in Germany.

Wow.  What. a. book.


The story takes place in Romania.  It is during the reign of the terrorist Ceausescu.  The country is in a totalitarian state.

A group of young people have left the poverty of their villages to become residents of the city.  They want better prospects for themselves and each other. However, the city is no better place than where they come from....everywhere they go and live is touched by the horrible dictator's touch.

Life is difficult.  Each person is affected in some way by this monster of a dictator.  If they don't bend to his will, they end up perishing while trying to resist this way of life.

The beginning of the story centers around Lola, a girl from the poor provinces who goes to the Romanian university to study Russian. She is very unprepared for life in the city and has many bad sexual experiences, resulting in suicide. After her suicide, she is expelled from the Communist party.

The story is told in the first person by a young girl...a roommate of Lola's who refuses to believe that her death was really a suicide. This girl (name unknown) eventually leaves the university when she comes under political suspicion.  She eventually escapes Romania by immigrating to Germany.


This was a tough read.  It is full of symbolism and darkness.  It's an allegory.  Yet, it pulls you in.  I was drawn to the story because the author lived through that time.  She is a survivor of Ceausescu's police state and at the end of the book she has included the entire transcript of her Nobel Prize lecture.

The eating of green plums (mentioned all throughout the book....eaten by the officers under Ceausescu's reign) symbolize the greed, lust and exploitation of that time.

It is a story of corruption that "rots the core" of both the country and its people.

It is stark, cold, sad.  Yet, so full of literary brilliance, it is a must read.

It really gives us Americans a taste of what it was like to live in Romania under communism.

This book has some very graphic details without being offensive.

At the beginning, I couldn't understand all the imagery and symbolism.  I took a whole week to read this even though it is a small book.  It is deep.  You need to think and ponder. In order to understand some of the book, I did have to turn to the internet to find some notes about this novel.

In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 17 and older (if the 17 year old has a good command of mature literature).

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I rate this a 9.5.


Susanne said...

Wow. I do not read a lot of allegory or symbol heavy books. It sort of takes the enjoyment out of reading for me always having to figure out what is really what. I tend to be a real face value kind of reader, for sure.

Deb said...

This sounds like it would be a good one for a senior literature course. Thanks for the review!