Claudia Moscovici

Book Review of Elliot Perlman’s Seven Types of Ambiguity

The first time I read Elliot Perlman’s Seven Types of Ambiguity I was very impressed by the fact that the same story could be recounted by several different narrators without a dull moment, cover to cover. This novel gives new meaning to the concept of “repetition with a difference.” Perlman was also very effective in the art of subtlety: showing how a relatively insignificant event could assume enormous proportions, affecting the lives of the main characters. Seven Types of Ambiguity is, above all, a psychological thriller. It tells the story of Simon’s obsessive love for his former college girlfriend, Anna, who left him ten years earlier. But the novel’s strength in creating dramatic tension out of a relatively small psychological event also turned out to be a stumbling block the second time I read it. Because, ultimately, Simon was not a compelling character. In fact, none of the main characters were. This novel is an absolute masterpiece in layering its narration in concentric circles around a main event through radically different points of view with distinct personalities and voices. Yet, in my estimation, Seven Types of Ambiguity wasn’t as strong in creating three-dimensional characters. For a novel built upon psychological suspense and the strength of its characterizations, this is a weakness that can’t be completely overlooked.

Claudia Moscovici, Notablewriters.com

September 29, 2010 Posted by | book review, Book Review of Elliot Perlman's Seven Types of Ambiguity, Claudia Moscovici, contemporary fiction, Elliot Perlman, fiction, literary criticism, literature, literature salon, literaturesalon, love story, mainstream fiction, Seven Types of Ambiguity | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Book Review of Elliot Perlman’s Seven Types of Ambiguity

Book Review of The Historian

As a Romanian-American writer, I’m somewhat allergic to books about vampires. The association between Romania and Dracula is a bit too close for comfort. In Romania, people don’t really care about the Dracula legend. Romanians take far more pride in the country’s rich tradition of art, poetry and literature (not to speak of gymnastics…). However, I make a notable exception for Elizabeth Kostova’s psychological thriller, The Historian, which will soon be released as a movie as well. This is not your usual vampire genre fiction. If you haven’t read this international best-seller because, like many of us, you’re getting tired of the saturation of vampire movies and fiction in our culture, then you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise with The Historian.

Written in exquisite literary prose, the novel excels at creating suspense from the craft of the narration itself and the strength of its characterizations. Step by step, readers become immersed in a labyrinthine historical investigation for the elusive, mythical figure of Dracula. Kostova transforms the classic literary theme of the vampire–one which is usually immersed in seedy seduction scenes and blood and gore in contemporary fiction–into what Bram Stoker’s original actually was: a suspenseful historical novel that traces a remote country’s mysterious past, where truth becomes inseparable from legend and fiction is richer than reality.

Claudia Moscovici, literaturesalon

September 27, 2010 Posted by | book review, Book Review of The Historian, Bram Stoker, Claudia Moscovici, Dracula, Elizabeth Kostova, literary criticism, literature, literature salon, literaturesalon, The Historian, the movie, vampire fiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Book Review of The Historian

A Literary Profile of the Abuser: Anna Quindlen’s Black and Blue

Many of us who love  Lolita have its unforgettable first lines committed to memory: “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three…”  Using exquisite prose, Nabokov sketches in an extremely compelling manner the profile of a pedophile and his victim. Unlike many other psychological novels, he doesn’t turn tragedy into redemption and pathology into love. There’s nothing redeeming or redeemable about the sociopathic pedophile and his sick love for Lolita.

Anna Quindlen’s Black and Blue follows in Lolita‘s footsteps as a great work of psychological fiction. Psychological, because the author sketches in such a realistic fashion the profile of the abuser that I’m tempted to say her novel should be available in every domestic violence shelter under the category of “nonfiction.” And yet, one can’t forget that Black and Blue is above all a work of fiction, masterfully crafted. Its beginning echoes the first lines of Lolita, in fact, the novel which it resembles in style even more than in content:

“The first time my husband hit me I was nineteen years old. One sentence and I’m lost. One sentence and I can hear his voice in my head, that butterscotch-syrup voice that made goose bumps rise on my arms when I was young, that turned all of my skin warm and alive with a sibilant S, the drawling vowels, its shocking fricatives. It always sounded like a whisper, the way he talked, the intimacy of it, the way the words seemed to go into your gutys, your head, your heart.” (1)

The message of Black and Blue is similar to that of nonfiction books on dangerous men, which attempt to educate the public and empower the victims. Abusers are often charming. Abusers don’t usually begin intimate relationships with overt abuse. Abusers can be entrancing and romantic, at least at first, during the wooing phase. Abuse doesn’t get better; it escalates. Abusers push the limits of their victims’ tolerance, little by little, until they dominate their targets. Abuse is above all a power game. The abusers are generally narcissistic individuals who lack empathy and want total control. The victims, however, aren’t necessarily weak or passive. They can be strong and loving men and women, like Frannie Benedetto. Abuse is a tragedy without a silver lining.

It’s one thing to read this familiar message in self-help books and pamphlets and quite another to feel it in a great work of fiction. From the very first lines, Black and Blue gets under your skin. It reveals the mindset of both abuser and abused. It traces the emotional scars of the child or children who have to endure these sad family dynamics. “My son scarcely ever cries. And his smile comes so seldom that it’s like bright sunshine on winter snow, blinding and strange.” (26)  Such beautiful language for such ugly facts… Perhaps this is the best way to bring the abuse to life for others. Above all, Black and Blue puts you in the shoes of all those who have the courage to run away from it without ever looking back.

Claudia Moscovici, literaturesalon

September 26, 2010 Posted by | abuse, Anna Quindlen, Black and Blue, book review, book review of Black and Blue, Claudia Moscovici, contemporary fiction, domestic abuse, domestic violence, literary criticism, literature, literature salon, literaturesalon, psychopath, psychopathy, salon | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on A Literary Profile of the Abuser: Anna Quindlen’s Black and Blue

Reader Reviews of Velvet Totalitarianism (from amazon.com)

By Steven Becker (New Jersey) *****

The title of this fantastic novel may stress its historical concerns, but don’t be deceived: it is a riveting, suspenseful story replete with compelling, richly developed characters with whom you become intimate quickly, and whose predicaments immediately capture and concern you. Moscovici is a great writer: she is tackling many themes in this ambitious book, but the story itself, which draws you in from its opening pages and consistently builds intensity every step of the way, is always front-and-center and leaves a memorable impact. Moscovici writes so intimately that you feel as if you’re in the story with her characters, not reading it. This is an unusual, exciting sensation, and a mark, I suspect, of truly great literature. I can’t recommend this novel highly enough. 
 
By Radu D. Popa *****
 
Claudia Moscovici’s novel has everything to excite the reader on both  rational and emotional levels. Political thriller, love story,  testimonial of resistance against all the possible odds! Moreover, it is  about love and the way to freedom–imperfect maybe, but better  than the concentration camp that Ceausescu’s Communism planned to perfection in  Romania. All these are transmitted through the literary writing, not  like in a newspaper or a history book. Modulation between real life and  imaginary, characters who emotionally convey the message, outstanding descriptions and dialogue make this book an outstanding novel! 
 
By Roger Crowley “amateur historian” (San Diego, CA USA) *****
 
There are very many versions of Romanian history, especially when dealing with the events leading up to the Romanian Revolution of 1989. So much happened, in fact, during the closing days of communism in Eastern Europe, that there is no one story of how it happened. This novel powerfully represents one scenario.  This fictional account, where the author even gave the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu the maiden name of his wife Elena Petrescu (perhaps to emphasize who the real power was in the country), is a story of how love can have many twists and turns in a society living in constant terror of the Securitate (secret police). Even though the state managed to force people to do things they wouldn’t normally do, love finally emerges from the thorns of communism … and the people carry on with their lives.  There are numerous theories about how the Revolution of 1989 started, including the premise proposed in the novel that the CIA played a part. Whether or not this scenario is true is immaterial. The novel is a moving picture of how it might have happened. I felt sad when the book ended because I wanted to hear more about the characters. I can only hope there’s a sequel. 
 
By Suni Black “blackbirdbks” (Mississippi) *****
 
This beautifully told story of a family’s struggle to stay together is very moving. Interwoven with the narrative is an intrigue between a secret service operative for and a woman forced to trade her body in exchange for the welfare of those she loves. It’s a complicated, beautiful story which sheds light on an oppressive regime. Before reading this book, I was totally unaware of the human rights oppression committed against the people of Romania. Through this lovely story of a family’s struggle, I saw a daily life in all its joy and horror. Well written and extremely moving. 
 
By Carl Pafisi  *****
 
A beautifully written and very entertaining novel with characters who always feel real to the reader, it is at the same time a fascinating account of life in Romania under the Ceaucescu regime, a taut thriller, a poignant description of immigrant life in the US and a moving love story. Yet, it is never really sad or depressing. Ultimately uplifting, it provides a lot of laughs throughout. 
 
By Susanne Black *****

Claudia Moscovici creates a vivid portrayal of the lives of ordinary people living in totalitarian Romania. 

By Nicholas Klepper (Edinburgh, Scotland) *****
 
Cold historical facts and figures tend to leave us emotionally indifferent. The impact of a nation’s tragic events on one single person or family is much better understood and more profoundly felt. And this is what makes Claudia Moscovici’s book so very special. Her novel, Reincarnation of Love, is prefaced by Velvet Totalitariasm, a very well researched history of Romania under Communism. Depending on one’s point of view, Moscovici’s work could be considered as the fictionalized story of a real Jewish-Romanian family under Communism, based on her own recollections and that of her family, supported by true historical facts; or a brief history supported by the fictionalized story of a real family. It’s a book well worth reading. The novel is a page turner, it’s witty, well written, and includes some touching portrayals of immigrant life in the United States as well. 

By Isabel Roche Obrien (Lenox, MA)  *****
 
Claudia Moscovici’s first novel treats the intersection of politics and family, transporting us deftly in time and space. Depth of knowledge–and experience–is felt on each page as conflict, struggle and spirit come alive through Moscovici’s engaging prose. Highly recommended! 

By Didilet (MA, USA) *****
 
Velvet Totalitarianism could be best described as a comic epic. This enjoyable novel tells the story of a family struggling to survive the repression of communist Romania during the Ceausescu regime.It has the ambitious range and tragic elements of an epic, while also being filled with touching anecdotes and humor: the laughter through tears kind that Eastern European writers are known for.This novel has it all. It’s a story of survival that will move you, entertain you and inform you.

September 25, 2010 Posted by | Claudia Moscovici, communism, communist Romania, contemporary fiction, historical fiction, literary criticism, literature, literature salon, literaturesalon, Romania, spy thriller, Velvet Totalitarianism | , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Reader Reviews of Velvet Totalitarianism (from amazon.com)

Critical Praise for Velvet Totalitarianism

A deeply felt, deftly rendered novel of the utmost importance to any reader interested in understanding totalitarianism and its terrible human cost. Urgent, evocative, and utterly convincing, Velvet Totalitarianism is a book to treasure, and Claudia Moscovici is indeed a writer to watch, now and into the future.

–Travis Holland, author of the critically acclaimed novel, The Archivist’s Story, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection.

Claudia Moscovici’s first novel, Velvet Totalitarianism, triumphs on several levels: as a taut political thriller, as a meditation on totalitarianism, as an expose of the Ceausescu regime, and as a moving fictionalized memoir of one family’s quest for freedom.

–Ken Kalfus, author of the novel A Disorder Peculiar to the Country

 (2006 National Book Award nominee), of The Commissariat of Enlightenment (2003) and of PU-239 and Other Russian Fantasies (1999).

Western intellectuals have often blurred the fundamental differences between the imperfect free world they have been fortunate to enjoy and the totalitarian world of communism they never had the misfortune to endure.  Claudia Moscovici’s Velvet Totalitarianism is a powerful corrective to that ivory tower distortion of reality.  Moscovici makes her readers viscerally feel the corrosive psychological demoralization and numbing fear totalitarian regimes impose on those who live under them.  At the same time, with style and wit, and informed by her experiences as a child in communist Romania and then as an immigrant in the United States, she tells a story of resilience and hope.  Velvet Totalitarianism is a novel well worth reading, both for its compelling narrative and for its important message.

–Michael Kort, Professor of Social Science at Boston University and author of the best-selling textbook, The Soviet Colossus: History and Aftermath

This vivid novel by Claudia Moscovici, historian of ideas and wide-ranging literary critic, traces a family of Jewish-Romanian refugees from the stifling communist dictatorship of their homeland through their settling in the United States during the 1980’s. This fascinating and compelling story is at once historically accurate, exciting, sexy and a real page-turner. Ms. Moscovici is as sensitive to the emotions of her characters as to their political entanglements.

–Edward K. Kaplan, Kevy and Hortense Kaiserman Professor in the Humanities at Brandeis University and author of Spiritual Radical: Abraham Joshua Heschel in America, 1940-1972, winner of the National Jewish Book Award

Moving between extraordinary and ordinary lives, between Romania and the United States, velvet totalitarianism and relative freedom, dire need and consumerism, evoking her Romanian experience in the seventies, the emigration to the U.S. of her family in the eighties, and the 1989 uprising in Timisoara and Bucharest that marked the end of Ceausescu’s regime, Claudia Moscovici offers her readers a multifaceted book—Velvet Totalitarianism—that is at once a love story, a political novel and a mystery. Love is the last resort left to people in order to counter totalitarianism under Ceausescu’s rule. It keeps families united, allowing them to resist indoctrination and hardship and to make sure their children enjoy the carefree beautiful years that are their due. Love gives the protagonist of the novel the strength to overcome cultural differences between Romania and the U.S. and to invent in turn a form of personal happiness in a context that, while far from being as harsh as her initial one, does not lack its own problems. 

— Sanda Golopentia, Professor of French, Brown University

Cold historical facts and figures tend to leave us emotionally indifferent. The impact of a nation’s tragic events on one single person or family is much better understood and more profoundly felt. This is what makes Claudia Moscovici’s book, Velvet Totalitarianism, so very special. Her novel is prefaced by a well-researched history of Romania under communism. Depending on one’s point of view, Moscovici’s work could be considered as the fictionalized story of a real Jewish-Romanian family under communism, based on her own recollections and that of her family and supported by true historical facts; or a brief history supported by the fictionalized story of a real family. It’s a book well worth reading. The novel is a page-turner, witty and well written.

–Nicolae Klepper, author of the best-selling book, Romania: An Illustrated History.

September 24, 2010 Posted by | Claudia Moscovici, communist Romania, contemporary fiction, Eastern Europe, fiction, historical fiction, literature, literature salon, literaturesalon, salon, Velvet Totalitarianism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Critical Praise for Velvet Totalitarianism