by Péter Gárdos (Doubleday) ISBN: 978-0-857-52379-2
This first novel by Hungarian film director, Péter Gárdos, is the true story of his parents’ courtship. After his father dies in 1998, Gárdos finds two bundles of letters between his patents, bound in silk ribbon. He questions his mother to flesh out the story.
Gárdos’ father, Miklós, is twenty-five years old when he is liberated from Bergen Belsen. Three weeks after the end of the Second World War he is sent for recovery in Sweden by the Red Cross. While in hospital be obtains the names and addresses of 117 young Hungarian woman who are also recovering in hospitals across Sweden. He writes them each a letter, introducing himself, hoping one will be his wife. He has tuberculosis and his doctor has given him very little time to live.
One of the responses he receives is from Lili, who writes back after encouragement from her friends and out of boredom from being confined to a bed. Through their correspondence, their lives gradually coalesce. Their touching story unfolds despite the immense suffering they have endured and their ill health, poverty and uncertainty.
To say I loved this book is an understatement. The writing is heart-rending in its elegant simplicity.