Monday, January 13, 2014

Degrees of Courage by Shari Vester

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Read: January 3, 2014

The book follows the story of three generation of women from 1900 through 1970, seven decades of wars and hardship. At the turn of the century, an era of strict moral codes, Angela falls in love with a priest who abandons her and her unborn child. She overcomes rejection and misfortunes, including losing her right hand, and brings up her daughter, exuberant, stubborn Ilonka. In spite of the stigma of her illegitimate birth, the girl finds happiness in love and marriage, raising five children, among them Sarika, independent and high-spirited, much like herself. With the outbreak of WWII, however, their lives change drastically, followed by equally hard times as the country falls under Soviet-style dictatorship. When an attempt to free the country in 1956 fails and people start to flee retributions, Sarika and her brothers join the exodus to the West. With her family torn apart Ilonka never recovers her strength. Years of fear and political pressures hasten her descend into depression, and when she loses her husband too, she finally gives up. Alone and completely on her own, Sarika finds her way to America, and begins a new life full of opportunities and most importantly, free of fear.

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A multigenerational tale, Shari Vester's Degrees of Courage follows the lives of four women over a span of seventy years, chronicling their personal hardships while illustrating the challenges of retaining one's cultural identity in an ever changing political landscape.

Like other readers, I was struck by the historic scope of Vester's work. Beginning in 1900, the novel's timeline covers WWI and the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, an economic depression, WWII, the political upheaval caused by Hungary's conversion to Communist rule and concludes with an exodus migration to the United States. There is a lot of history within these pages and though it is essentially a character driven piece, I was particularly drawn to Vester's depiction of a country in an almost constant state of transition. 

That being said, Vester's cast of characters represented a particular challenge for me as a reader. Not being overly sentimental, I had trouble with the intensely personal themes of their experiences and found it difficult to remain engaged in their stories when the narrative shifted focus to their cultural history.  

A light, family-oriented fiction, Degrees of Courage is a poignant tale of feminine fortitude and endurance, notable for its emotional subject matter as well as its depiction of a lesser known European stage. Not the best choice for those looking for action-packed drama, but certainly appealing to those with a taste for more subtle storytelling. 

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She was alone with her secret, with only her blind faith to sustain her in the lonely wait ahead.
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Check out all the stops on shari vester's degrees of courage VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR

Monday, January 13
Review at Bloggin’ ’bout Books
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Tuesday, January 14
Interview & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, January 15
Guest Post & Giveaway at HF Connection
Thursday, January 16
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Friday, January 17
Review at Closed the Cover
Monday, January 20
Guest Post & Giveaway at Bibliophilic Book Blog
Tuesday, January 21
Review at Just One More Chapter
Wednesday, January 22
Review & Giveaway at Words and Peace
Thursday, January 23
Review at From L.A. to LA
Friday, January 24
Review at Silver’s Reviews
Review at Books in the Burbs

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