The Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia in August 1968 and began their twenty-year communist rule of that country. To say that lives were changed irrevocably would be a drastic understatement.
Told in four sections, Dede Reed’s debut novel, Velvet Spring, begins in the years leading up to the Velvet Revolution of 1989 and focuses on the interconnected lives of four women who must find a way to navigate through life in such tumultuous conditions.
In the first section, we are introduced to Zofie. Left on the doorstep of Uršula, a peasant woman, with nothing but a blanket with her name embroidered on it, Zofie is taken in and cared for but not, in her mind, really loved or wanted. Zofie grows up, goes to school, and makes friends, always feeling like an outsider no matter where she is. One particular friend, Katrina, invites her to her summer house to stay with her family, which results in relationships and experiences that change her life forever.
Next, we hear Uršula’s story, told in letters to Zofie in a staccato voice that is beautifully representative of the woman. Emotions are no easier for her to express on paper than they are in person. Almost reluctantly and seemingly accidentally, she reveals so much that helps us understand her, such as the fact that she was mute until the age of eight, when a circus dwarf asked her for her name and age.
Maria, Zofie’s mother, is the next to speak, through a journal she keeps for her daughter. She tells of her idyllic childhood and the tragedies that befell her later. After the death of her mother and the resulting depression of her father, Maria finds love and becomes pregnant. She leaves her daughter for a few days to go to Vienna at her father’s request. It is 1968, and she is not permitted to return to Czechoslovakia and Zofie.
In the last two sections we are back with Zofie and Nataša, whom she adopted upon the death of her parents, Katrina and Georg.
Reed beautifully constructs characters and weaves an intricate and poignant web in which they all connect. The stories, though tragic and painful, are told with compassion and compel the reader to continue in the hope of, if not a happy ending, a kind one. Reed’s conclusion gives us just that and left this reader with a smile and the feeling that these wonderful women would finally be given the peace they so much deserve.
Chris Hayden has been working at City Book Review since 2012, so that makes him the keeper of knowledge. He manages the office and book reviewers (all 200 of them!), which is no small feat. If you’re looking at the book reviews here, you’re seeing them because he sent the books out for review. Without him, this place would fall apart, because no one else in the office knows how to use the postage machine. Two words: job security.
|Page Count||226 pages|
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