Emily Goenner's Reviews > An Exclusive Love: A Memoir

An Exclusive Love by Johanna Adorján
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's review
Feb 14, 2011

really liked it
Read from February 14 to 17, 2011

I understand the title but also think it makes the book appear to be a romance novel, which it is in the sense it’s about love, but not in the sense of Romance Novel. It’s a memoir by the granddaughter of a couple who committed suicide together when the husband got fatally ill. The couple—Pista and Vera-- married just before WWII and were Jewish. She, writer/granddaughter, tells their story through her story of interviews with people who knew them and her memories of them; she interweaves that with trying to imagine what their last day was like and trying to understand why they killed themselves, particularily Vera who was very healthy. Pista survived a concentration camp (but never spoke about it), was an orthopedic surgeon, went to the Korean war with a communist Hungarian hospital, then feld Hungary and rebuilt their lives in Denmark.

Love has so many facets in the book, which is the title but is so much less trite than the title sounds. Vera never believed anyone but her husband loved her and couldn’t face life without him. She worked as a physical therapist before melding into the Danish housewife role. Pista always honored and adored Vera. There’s a clear love of classical music woven throughout their lives, love of friends, love for their dog, all faced against this unspeakable act that seems so selfish and unloving to their granddaughter. Then, all of this is set against their secular Judiasm. The writer tries to figure out what being Jewish meant to them and what it means to her.

Really, a very sad, very thoughtful, very deep book.
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