Book: Valeria’s Last Stand
Author: Marc Fitten
My Rating: 3.5 Stars
My short review: A light and mildly entertaining read set in a fictional village in Hungary.
Marc Fitten’s ‘Valeria’s Last Stand’ is a geriatric fairy tale. Yes, you heard me right. Cupid strikes and hormones rage amongst the elderly population in an all-but-forgotten Hungarian village. In a typical rustic folk-lore fashion, the men are referred to by their professions. We have the potter at the center of the tale. A relatively silent widower who is used to minding his own business but manages to stay favorable in the villagers eyes thanks to his generous wedding gifts. The potter is involved with the boisterous owner of the tavern down the street from his workshop – Ibolya. Ibolya’s is the only tavern in the village and is the “hang-out” spot for most of the older men who spend their days there drooling over Ibolya’s raised skirts and open shirt buttons. Ibolya’s plan to maintain an “open relationship” with the potter backfires when an unexpected romance blooms between the potter and the village hag – Valeria.
Valeria was once a beauty – the village belle. But a romance gone bad and a lifetime of loneliness makes her mean, condescending and distrustful of everyone around her. She is the only one to even give the village locksmith his business in an otherwise trusting place. She locks up every door and even every drawer! She is a perfectionist – her house is spic and span and her vegetable garden bears the best vegetables. But since she expects the same degree of perfection from the others as well, her routine visits to the market are a nightmare to other vendors whose produce are not necessarily as perfect. She can spot a rotting vegetable from a mile and would make sure to point it out in her loud mouthed manner. She is universally hated and doesn’t really bother about it until one fine day, in the market, she suddenly and abruptly falls in love with the potter.
She rushes back home to clean up, wears a flowered skirt and a kerchief around her head and pedals away furiously towards the potter’s workshop to woo her man with a can of milk. This is the start of a romance that drives Ibolya mad with jealousy. The potter discovers that Valeria inspires him to create more than just utility pots and pans. Her inspiration makes him an artist!
The romantic triangle breaks the social balance of Zivatar. The villagers helplessly watch as the potter shuttles between Ibolya and Valeria. They are intrigued by Valeria’s distraction with the chimney sweep and even the mayor’s little indiscretion fails to divert their attention.
All this and more happens against the backdrop of Zivatar’s slow transformation. The greedy and ambitious mayor travels all over the world and there’s always talk of investors – there are plans to bring the railroads through Zivatar (the Mayor’s pet project), Korean investors are looking to open a television factory in Zivatar and the market suddenly sees bananas (a fruit new to the inhabitants of Zivatar).
Valeria’s Last Stand is different and entertaining. It will not make you drop everything else that you are doing and it fails to make a deep impression. It is a light read and the antics of the small village are entertaining. The language is simple and the author does a good job of creating a rural Hungarian atmosphere.
If you are looking for something light, this is a good book to consider. I definitely needed something completely different after “The Blue Notebook” and this was a perfect book for me to “recover” with.