The Madonna on the Moon takes us to Baia Luna, a small village in the Carpathian mountains, during Communist rule in the 1950s. The village is sufficiently remote that the residents were not closely supervised and regulated. The story is told by Pavel Botev from his perspective as a fifteen-year-old boy as he slowly realizes that his world is not what it seems.
Pavel Botev's school teacher Angela Barbulescu was known to be a notorious alcoholic with a mysterious past. Pavel learns how beautiful Barbulescu had been as a young woman and he wonders what led her to become the bitter alcoholic years later and how it relates to the new Party Secretary. Pavel undertakes to discover Angela Barbulescu's past and why she hates a prominent party member.
The story is complex, elaborate, and unusual. I wasn't very familiar with the history of this part of Eastern Europe and Rolf Bauerdick made the area come alive. Unfortunately, I didn't find the characters particularly sympathetic or interesting. I didn't enjoy the book all that much though I recognize that I'm in the minority - the book has been very well received and reviewed.
ISBN-10: 0307594122 - Hardcover $27.95
Publisher: Knopf (July 2, 2013), 416 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine Reviewers Program.
About the Author:
Rolf Bauerdick was born in 1957. He studied literature and theology before turning to journalism and photography. His work has received numerous awards, among them Germany’s prestigious Hansel Mieth Prize. His articles have been published in Der Spiegel, GEO, and Playboy, among other publications. He lives in a converted flour mill in Northern Germany with his wife and children. The Madonna on the Moon is his first novel.
Translated from the German by David Dollenmayer.