A beautiful historical fiction.
WHAT’S THE BOOK ABOUT
A tale set amid the 1956 Hungarian revolution in post-WWII Communist Budapest.
In the middle of Budapest, there is a river. Csilla knows the river is magic. During WWII, the river kept her family safe when they needed it most–safe from the Holocaust. But that was before the Communists seized power. Before her parents were murdered by the Soviet police. Before Csilla knew things about her father’s legacy that she wishes she could forget.
Now Csilla keeps her head down, planning her escape from this country that has never loved her the way she loves it. But her carefully laid plans fall to pieces when her parents are unexpectedly, publicly exonerated. As the protests in other countries spur talk of a larger revolution in Hungary, Csilla must decide if she believes in the promise and magic of her deeply flawed country enough to risk her life to help save it, or if she should let it burn to the ground.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK
This Rebel Heart by Katherine Locke is a beautifully written novel set amid the backdrop of the 1956 Hungarian revolution in the post-WWII Communist Budapest.
It is a paean for the citizens of Hungary who fought to free their country from a foreign power. Locke poignantly describes Hungary’s condition under the rule of Stalinist Russia. I loved the fact how she played with colors to describe the transition of Hungary from a country listlessly following the Party diktat to a country revolting for its rights.
Locke seamlessly blends historical fiction with magical realism to craft a powerful story about hope and resilience of human spirit in face of great adversity. The Danube River “speaks” to Csilla; the story features an angel of death, and Csilla tries to bring to life a golem. While it may seem absurd to hear of these, Locke has done a phenomenal job of integrating these elements into the story impeccably.
Moreover, all the characters are three-dimensional and add depth to the story. Not a single character seemed unnecessary to me. I loved all the three central characters: Csilla, Azriel, and Tamas. All are people with flaws, aspirations, and desires. Yet, all battle their insecurities and come together to fight for their country. I loved how Locke portrayed the tenderness and vulnerability of the relationship amongst the three people.
I loved the characters of Csilla’s father, her mother, and her aunt equally. These are complex characters impeccably brought to life by Locke.
This Rebel Heart does not shy away from asking difficult questions such as were the perpetrators of the Holocaust really brought to justice. How could people after reporting on their Jewish neighbors carry on with their lives as if nothing ever happened. Most importantly, it sheds light on the plight of the Jews who survived the Nazi concentration camps and came back.
After a long time, I highlighted several passages in a book which is a testament to the powerful prose of this book. Further, it inspired me to learn about Hungary’s tryst with revolution about which I knew nothing.
However, what stops me from rating this book 5 stars is the magical realism of the tale. While it does make for an original tale, I personally prefer my historical fiction to be grounded in reality. However, this is a personal preference.
I would heartily recommend This Rebel Heart by Katherine Locke to fans of historical and literary fiction.
Many thanks to TBR & Beyond Tours for organizing this blog tour. Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book. This does not affect my opinion on the book. I opted to provide an honest review on my blog.
You can follow the tour schedule here.
Katherine Locke (they/them) lives and writes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with their feline overlords and their addiction to chai lattes. They are the author of The Girl with the Red Balloon, a 2018 Sydney Taylor Honor Book and 2018 Carolyn W. Field Honor Book, as well as The Spy with the Red Balloon, and the forthcoming This Rebel Heart (April 2022). They are the co-editor and contributor to This is Our Rainbow: 16 Stories of Her, Him, Them and Us, which had three starred reviews and made Kirkus Review’s Best Middle Grade of 2021 list, as well as It’s A Whole Spiel: Love, Latkes and Other Jewish Stories. They also contributed to Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens and Out Now: Queer We Go Again. They are the author of picture books Bedtime for Superheroes, What Are Your Words? A Book About Pronouns, and the forthcoming Being Friends with Dragons (February 2022). They can be found online at KatherineLockeBooks.com and @bibliogato on Twitter and Instagram.