Shadow of a Hero

Overview

As Eastern Europe lurches toward chaos after the fall of communism, at last it seems possible to Letta that she and her grandfather will be able to visit his homeland, the tiny country Varina.

Varina is presently split among three big neighbors, but why shouldn't it be free? It has its own language and history, its own songs and dances, its own dogs and cheeses. Can Varina take its chance or must it go the tragic way of Bosnia and Croatia? Can ...

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Shadow Of A Hero

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Overview

As Eastern Europe lurches toward chaos after the fall of communism, at last it seems possible to Letta that she and her grandfather will be able to visit his homeland, the tiny country Varina.

Varina is presently split among three big neighbors, but why shouldn't it be free? It has its own language and history, its own songs and dances, its own dogs and cheeses. Can Varina take its chance or must it go the tragic way of Bosnia and Croatia? Can one old man make any difference? And how can Letta help?

In 1989, Letta, an English teenager, learns of her heritage from her grandfather, great-grandson of the legendary hero of Varina, as he becomes involved in the nationalistic political struggles in Eastern Europe.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In the tradition of his AK and The Seventh Raven, Dickinson's spine-tingling, heart-stopping new work provides a glimpse of the elusive, unsettling and highly personal truths that often lurk behind terse political headlines. Descended from two renowned national heroes of Varina (a tiny, fictional Eastern European country), English-born Letta remains largely uninvolved with Varina's culture, until the dissolution of the Eastern bloc raises the possibility of Varina's reunification. Letta is immediately involved as the granddaughter of Restaur Vax II, the country's last democratically elected prime minister. Restaur Vax is himself the great-grandson of another charismatic leader, the warrior and poet whose exploits during Varina's brief but glorious period of independence in the 1820s are celebrated (and raised to near-mythical status) in nationalistic folktales known as the Legends. As the author describes Letta's visit to post-Ceausescu Romania and the trip's complex effects, he precedes each chapter of Letta's story with a Legend, gently hinting at the ever-shifting relationships among historical fact, fable and literature. As moving as it is thought-provoking, this extraordinary novel not only imagines a specific political event but provides a guide to interpreting historical and social conflicts all over the world. It is a testimony to Dickinson's persuasive storytelling that he can introduce a word that exists only in the made-up language of a fictional land, and, by tale's end, use it to bring tears to a reader's eyes. Ages 12-up. (Nov.)
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-The complexities of the independence struggles in Eastern Europe are brought to light in this novel about a fictional province in Romania. Dickinson focuses his story on the dreams of an old man and the political awakening of a young girl. Restaur Vax is the 81-year-old former prime minister of the tiny former-Soviet satellite. Living in exile in England with his daughter's family, he shares in plans to focus world attention on the plight of his people, caught in the post-communist chaos of Eastern Europe. His 13-year-old granddaughter, Letta, is his pupil, learning the language, customs, and traditions of his homeland. When she and her family accompany Vax on a dramatic return to Varina to participate in a cultural festival, he is abruptly whisked away by Romanian authorities who fear the impact of his heroic return. Letta watches uneasily as a calculating opportunist, Otto Vasa, steps forward to become spokesman for Varina and her brother becomes the man's courier. Alternating with the episodes from the near-present day are the centuries-old tales about an earlier Restaur Vax, a legendary Varinian liberator. The author has created characters that are believable and distinct, a plot that is steady and compelling, and a historical context to bring the land and its people to life. Informative and entertaining, this story emphasizes the powerful and divisive influence of cultural and ethnic heritage.-Gerry Larson, Chewning Middle School, Durham, NC
Merri Monks
Dickinson's compelling, sophisticated novel is the story of both courageous 13-year-old Letta, who's been raised in England, and Varina, Letta's Eastern European homeland. Through alternating chapters, the author juxtaposes the stories of two wars of emancipation led by two Varian heroes with the same name--Restaur Vax. The first led the battle against eighteenth-century Turkey, and the other, Letta's grandfather, is leading his country's fight for freedom from Rumania, Bulgaria, and Serbia. Close to her grandfather, who has cultivated her interest in Varina's language and legends, Letta becomes directly involved, along with her family, in Varina's struggle for freedom. She contends silently with her mother's coldness, but when, on a rare visit to Varina, she learns of the horrors of her mother's childhood, Letta begins to understand and forgive. Involved in a political plot by her older brother, she must make important decisions on which the future of her beloved Varina will rest. A traveler between two cultures who does not belong entirely to either, Letta, at the novel's end, is back in England when she learns of her grandfather's death in Varina. Yet her pride in her cultural heritage is her grandfather's--and her homeland's--legacy, one she will help to preserve and give to others.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440219637
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 10/27/1995
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 295
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Lexile: 1020L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 4.43 (w) x 7.07 (h) x 1.04 (d)

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