Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dziewczyny z Portofino (Girls from Portofino) - Grazyna Plebanek (9/50)

Genre:                     Contemporary polish literature
Year:                       2005
Pages:                     377
Followed by:            Pudełko ze Szpilkami (Box of Pins)
Publisher               W.A.B.

       Agnieszka, a daughter of a wealthy doctor, has never known her mother; Mania is a daughter of an alcoholic; Beata's father - a political oppositionist - cheats on his wife; Hanka must for years silently observe her mother undergoing beatings and humiliations. These girls are all friends living in one of Warsaw's big blocks of flats. They go to school together and grow up together. They are not good girls.
       Without sentimentalism Grażyna Plebanek recounts their secrets and their rebellions, their disillusionment with the adult world, their first sexual experiences, which they actively seek, their hunger for love, their betrayals, and forgiving.


"-That's exactly why I wanted you to find a good home. With a husband who would care for you. But you didn't want that!
Hanka lifted her head.
- With a husband, mother?
- So you would be safe. So when father.. when he hurts you, you'd have a place to go.
- And when father hurts YOU? - she asked, sitting on the bead.
Mother stirred on the couch.
- It's my husband. I vowed to him.
- And he? He didn't vow? To respect you and care for you in health and sickness? Leave him!
Mother sat in silence. She didn't reply that night, nor the next day, but Hanka noticed something important - for the first time her mother didn't say "no". 

My thoughts:

       I was born in Poland during the times of Polish People's Republic. I remember how life was  back then. It wasn't easy. To be honest it was very hard, everyone was poor, food and basic needs where very hard to get. Long lineups to the grocery store, empty shelves... Gray was the dominating color everywhere, the reality was colorless. And yet my childhood memories are so happy and wonderfully positive! I remember how it was to be able to have only one chocolate bar a month! And you know what? It felt really great. This  long anticipated chocolate bar tasted like heaven! People really appreciated things back then and in a way it was really.. good. Despite the hardships, we found ways to find happiness, we learned to appreciate small things. 
       Girls from Portofino is a very polish book and I think only Poles can fully understand and enjoy it. Reading it felt like reading my own diary, reliving my childhood, opening an old photo book and revisiting good and bad moments from my own past. It felt THAT personal to read it. I could relate to everything in this book. Grażyna Plebanek told  my own generation's story.  She depicted the experience of women similar to me, of people from my own block of flats. The story she told is captivating, moving, very emotional and most of all REAL. Reading it was highly entertaining, it often made me laugh, many times it made me nod in understanding.. sometimes it even made me cry. Words of Plebanek evoked my own experience, it was truly wonderful to read this book.

My Rating:  



Betty: Reflections with Coffee said...

That solitary chair on the cover is chilling to see. I can only imagine what it signifies inside the book! A sobering book indeed.

Krystal Larson said...

This book looks serious, but I think it would be good for me to read. We should appreciate our lives.

aurora M. said...

This book sounds like a "deep" read. Disturbing but good. Thanks for the review.

therainhouse said...

Stories like these speak of empowerment, I suppose.

I feel disheartened just by reading your review.

Munnaza said...

This book sounds absolutely heartbreakingly beautiful. Definitely a serious read. Thank you for the review!

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