Great FortunePosted: 2021/07/07
Manning, Olivia. The Balkan Trilogy: the Great Fortune. New York: Viking Penguin, 1960.
Reason read: the first Yugoslav conflict of the 1990s started in June.
The year is 1939 and Europe is seething with the threat of war. Germany has just invaded Poland and shows no signs of stopping. At the heart of The Great Fortune is newlyweds Guy and Harriet Pringle. Having just arrived in Bucharest, Harriet is shy and unknowing while her gregarious husband is back on old familiar stomping grounds. As an English professor and lecturer he knows multitudes of friends, students, colleagues, and old lovers alike. Driven by the political and military headlines of the day, The Great Fortune details civilian reactions: the chatter over coffee in cafes, the arguments behind bedroom doors, gossip in the streets. The blasé expatriate community regards the approaching Germans as a trifling that won’t affect them.
I am not sure why, but Manning’s first book of the Balkan Trilogy took me a long time to slog through. I didn’t connect with the characters; thought Yaki was downright annoying.
As an aside, the 1939 Hispano-Suiza was a sexy car. It looks like something Al Capone would have driven around in.
Author fact: Manning lived in Bucharest. Her experiences shaped the Balkan Trilogy.
Book trivia: The Balkan Trilogy and the Levant Trilogy form a single narrative called the Fortunes of War. I heard a rumor that the entire trilogy is autobiographical.
Playlist: Chopin, and Beethoven.
Nancy said: absolutely nothing about Great Fortune.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Reads, Decade by Decade: 1960” (p 175). Actually, to be fair, the individual books that make up the Balkan Trilogy were left out of Book Lust.