February 21, 2014
Degrees of Courage by Shari Vester
Angela is a young woman who falls in love with the local priest. Promising to leave the clergy, he ends up leaving her pregnant instead and changes his mind about their relationship. As a single mother in the early 1900's she has to struggle to raise her daughter by herself and that daughter grows up quickly. Lensie, or Ilonka as she is called later, falls in love with a man much her senior and ends up pregnant as well, but they marry and soon more children follow, including Sari, a headstrong girl who wants more out of life than to just be a mother. These women live through wars and Communist occupation in Hungary and face many struggles in just trying to live a decent life.
I'd say my favorite character was probably Angela. She had a lot of struggles in her life but her ability to overcome them was amazing. I was also impressed at the business she built for herself in a time where women didn't work as much, let alone ran their own business and was successful at it. Ilonka I couldn't relate to as much as she wanted nothing more than to be a mother, which is an admirable pursuit but not one that I share. But she was definitely dedicated to her kids and would do anything for them. Shari definitely was headstrong and got herself into a lot of things, but she got to experience a lot of life that way and I thought it was definitely courageous for her to move as much as she did and take risks. We see a little bit about Shari's siblings and they too had to overcome a lot of struggles because of the politics of the day. It would seem everyone in this book had a hard life.
There is a lot of history in this book. In fact, that would be my only complaint. While I found it very informative, there were times when the book was talking about this leader or that, that it stretched on a little too long and I found myself losing interest. The details on the war itself was interesting and the lives of the characters(people) I enjoyed hearing about very much though and that was the bulk of the book. The plot progressed smoothly and most of the time was dedicated to Ilonka and Shari, although Angela had a solid section in the beginning of the book, just not as long. It really is amazing the struggles that happened during the war. I don't think Hungary is thought of much when it comes to World War I and World War II but they were in it along with everyone else and being a smaller country, they had a lot different outcome than some of the bigger powers.
A large book but filled with detail about three women who took risks and struggled to get what they wanted out of life. It's a good book for anyone interested in memoirs or history and don't mind reading something that is partially fiction but with a good deal of non-fiction thrown in.
**This book was received as a Free Advanced Reviewer's Copy**
Degrees of Courage