The Story That Cannot Be Told

S. & S.//Atheneum. Oct. 2019. 384p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534430686.
Gr 3-7–This gripping story describes the impact of the Communist regime of Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania on the lives of one family and draws on multiple sources of information—folklore and fairy tales, stories told to the author by Romanian friends, and the author’s research into history and literature—to yield a powerful mix of fact and fiction. The writing draws heavily from the language of storytelling: “Once upon a time, something happened. If it had not happened, it would not be told.” The book centers on Ileana, a young girl whose world is shaken as the Ceausescu regime erodes individual freedoms and sows fear and resentment. Secret police intrude into people’s lives. One day, despite her parents’ warnings, Ileana lets in an “electrician,” who proceeds to install bugs throughout the family’s apartment. Ileana, a talented storyteller and writer, is a threat to everyone’s safety, especially her own, so her parents send her to the countryside to stay with her grandparents. Life gets more and more constrained, and the secret police eventually endeavor to destroy the village where Ileana is staying, find her uncle, and punish him for writing a political manifesto. The novel’s structure draws readers in. Threaded throughout are retellings of Romanian fairy tales about “Cunning Ileana,” a smart princess who outsmarts her enemies. These tales encircle the main narrative in fascinating ways that invite speculation and interpretation. It would be hard to end this story and not feel connected to it and curious to know more about what happened in Romania in the 1980s.
VERDICT An engrossing read that will raise questions about how to determine the truth of past events.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing