Liviu's Reviews > The Days of the King

The Days of the King by Filip Florian
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bookshelves: 2011_release_read, mainstream, read_2011

This is a book that has three main aspects - the historical situation of the Romanian Principalities from their union in 1859, to Carol's accession in 1866 to his becoming King of Romania in 1881, the atmosphere of Bucharest (and to a lesser extent the rest of the country) at the times and the actual storyline of Joseph Strauss' life as he follows the prince from Germany to Romania to treat his teeth.

The book is superb on the first two but doesn't quite succeed on the third count though not reading the Romanian original, but only the English translation, I am not sure if it's the translation, the author's original choices or simply that his convoluted Romanian prose does not translate well in the 21st century English and the result comes as saying simple things in ten phrases rather than one which jars badly on occasion.

For the big picture which I happen to know reasonably well, the author has presented it quite clearly - the need of Romania for a foreign prince to insure respectability, credibility, stability, protection, recognized by all in theory but of course ignored in the jostling for advancement and position which led to various farcical "revolutions" as well as to Carol's occasional threats of resignation until finally he made his point and had the corrupt and self-seeking Romanian politicians pay attention for once, followed by the quick modernization of the country, the vast increase in its well being with independence and elevation to a full kingdom rather than an union of principalities following naturally though not without sacrifices; huge achievements due first and foremost to the prince/king and the author shows it clearly separating Carol the magnificent ruler from Carol the not that likable person who uses and discards people like Joseph Strauss at whim

For the local detail, again superb work by the author and the atmosphere of Bucharest of 1866 is pitch perfect as is the evolution from a backward city with one paved street and a somewhat run down house moonlighting as a palace - so Carol when led there as to his "palace" thought he wasn't understanding correctly and asked the politicians to finally take him to his "real palace" - to the beautiful city of the 1880's and later that was rightly dubbed Little Paris.

However the main body of the book that follows Joseph's saga rather than the prince/country/city alternates moments of excellence with such plodding prose that it almost seems like it's the work of two authors. As noted above i have no idea of the precise reason but I incline to believe that it is simply a case of language incompatibility and if the author were to write directly in English he would tell the story quite differently than in this translation that tries to be lavish in language and succeeds only to be laborious and quite dense in a negative sense on many occasions.

All in all The Days of the King (B) is a book that is excellent historical fiction and mediocre (at best) literature.
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