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Train to Trieste

Train to Trieste

4.3 3
by Domnica Radulescu, Yelena Shmulenson (Narrated by)

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The lyrical story of a young woman's journey from the totalitarianism of Eastern Europe to the freedom of America, told by an author who knows first-hand about living in a cruel and absurd dictatorship. It's the summer of 1977, and 17-year-old Mona is madly in love. Visiting her aunt's village at the foot of the misty Carpathian mountains, all she can think about


The lyrical story of a young woman's journey from the totalitarianism of Eastern Europe to the freedom of America, told by an author who knows first-hand about living in a cruel and absurd dictatorship. It's the summer of 1977, and 17-year-old Mona is madly in love. Visiting her aunt's village at the foot of the misty Carpathian mountains, all she can think about is the mysterious, handsome Mihai, the woods where they linger, his deep green eyes, and his cool, starched sheets. Romania is in the early years of the repressive Ceausescu regime. One day Mona sees Mihai wearing the black leather jacket favored by the secret police. Could he be one of them? As food shortages worsen, paranoia grows, and more of her loved ones disappear in "accidents," Mona realizes she must leave her country. She makes a daring escape to America without saying goodbye to Mihai. In Chicago, she becomes a doctoral student, marries, has children, and tries to bury her longing for the past- until she feels compelled to return home and learn the truth about her one great love.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

It's 1977 in Ceausescu's brutal Romania, and 17-year-old Mona Manoliu is falling for brooding Mihai Simionu, whom she meets on summer vacation in the Carpathian mountains. What should be a grandly simple first love is complicated by fear, especially for Mona's father, a Bucharest poetry professor tracked by the secret police. Death and secrets plague Mona and Mihai's affair, as friends and relatives die under suspicious circumstances. While the country slides further into poverty, paranoia is the norm, and Mona doesn't know whether to believe the rumors she hears about Mihai. But after her father is detained by police, and then released through the intervention of a former student, it's clear that Mona must leave Romania. Of the many well-known escape routes, she chooses to take the train to "Trieste" (actually the Yugoslav border). The book takes her much further than that, all the way to a confrontation with the truth about the men in her life, both past and present. Radulescu gives Mona a convincingly overwrought voice, loading her observations with sensory detail, literary and cultural references, and keening emotion. It won't be for everyone, but it offers a unique look at the shadowy world of a brutal dictatorship. (Aug.)

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Library Journal

True love is hard to find, but it's priceless-a lesson it takes feisty and vivacious Mona Manoliu decades to learn. A 17-year-old student in late 1970s Romania, Mona has fallen hard for the charismatic Mihai, whom she meets when summering with her family in the foothills of the Carpathians. Back home in Bucharest, her father pursues clandestine activities, and the family barely eats, but Mona is starry-eyed about Mihai-until she sees him in a black leather jacket, the favored outfit of the secret police, and encounters a crazed woman who asks her whether she really knows who he is. Then her family persuades her to flee to the West, and she's off to America via Italy via Bucharest. Years later, Mona returns to Romania and discovers the truth about Mihai-a revelation that, against all expectations, is both startling and satisfying. Though the passages detailing Mona's life in America can feel both too detailed and too rushed, the narrative as a whole is engaging, evocative, intensely sensual, and sharply perceptive, conveying both the horrors of the Ceausescu regime and the ironies of Mona's experiences in America. A strong first novel from the founding director of the National Symposium of Theater in Academe; for most collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ4/1/08.]
—Barbara Hoffert

Kirkus Reviews
In this fictionalized memoir from the Romanian author and professor, a Romanian refugee flees the Ceausescu regime and becomes a professor of languages and theater in America. Mona comes from a long line of strong Romanian women, beginning with her great-grandmother, who floats down a flood-swollen river and marries her rescuer. At 17, Mona meets the love of her life, raven-haired, green-eyed Mihai, while vacationing in the Carpathian Mountains. Mercurial Mihai's last girlfriend was killed (accidentally, or perhaps not) by a rock kicked loose by Mihai while the two were hiking in the foothills. Between trysts with Mihai, Mona observes the contradictions of life under the Ceausescus-the dictator tag team of Nicolae and Elena. Public education is excellent-Mona's high school has imparted a firm grounding in languages, comparative literature and classical music. However, the food shortages, empty store shelves and long lines plaguing so many Cold War-era eastern bloc countries oppress Romanians, including Mona's linguistics professor father and poet mother, almost as much as constant surveillance by the Securitate (secret police) who slouch menacingly in the shadows of city streets and cafes. As the Securitate net tightens around Mona's father, a member of a dissident group, her parents resolve to get her out. This will entail leaving Mihai, who lately has been spouting Party lines with unaccustomed fervor. Escaping via Yugoslavia into Italy, she's sheltered by two Italian families who aid her passage to America. The section set in America is perforce less gripping than the Romanian scenes, and Radulescu glosses over her protagonist's troubled marriage to an American psychologist, as well asthe ensuing divorce and child-custody wrangling. After Mona's parents join her in America they have the satisfaction of watching Ceausescu's fall (and Christmas Day impromptu execution) on television. An immigrant cousin informs Mona of Mihai's death. Finally, 40-something Mona makes her way home for a long overdue investigation of Mihai's true character. A pleasantly suspenseful narrative delivered in competent but unnuanced English. Agent: Jodie Rhodes/Jodie Rhodes Literary Agency. First printing of 40,000

Product Details

HighBridge Company
Publication date:
Edition description:
Unabridged, 10 CDs, 11 hrs 45 min
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 6.00(h) x 1.10(d)

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
What is the new American novel? The story of an immigrant, of course. Train to Trieste is a spirited, passionate, funny look at the world in the time of the new millennium, and Domnica Radulescu is a remarkable writer enriching American letters with her Romanian perspective. We are lucky to call her ours.
—Sandra Cisneros

I’ve had multitudinous gasps of delight reading Train to Trieste, which I read breathlessly and quickly; it’s definitely a page turner.
—Andrei Codrescu

Meet the Author

DOMNICA RADULESCU was born in Romania and came to the United States in 1983. She holds a PhD in French and Italian Literature from the University of Chicago, and is currently a Professor of Romance Languages and Chair of the Women’s Studies program at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. She has written and edited books and scholarly articles on European and Eastern European literature, and has also worked in theater for two decades, directing plays by Eugene Ionesco, Samuel Beckett, Fernando Arrabal, and Jean Tardieu. She is a recipient of National Endowment for the Humanities and Fulbright grants. Train to Trieste is her first novel.

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Train to Trieste 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
A_G_D More than 1 year ago
This book caught my attention right away when I saw it mentioned on the Barnes and Noble Fictional General Discussion forum. Since I was born in Romania, the name of the author caught my attention right away since there are not that many books written by Romanian authors. At first, it took me a while to fully get engaged into the story. Domnica Radulescu has a very interesting writing style which I got to appreciate more towards the end. Her highly descriptive way of presenting things and her way of constantly summarizing what she had previously wrote, in developing the story, made it a little difficult to follow in the beginning but the more I read the more I got to appreciate it. The book follows the story of Mona, a girl born in Bucharest during the long period of Communism. She describes her childhood, her family's history as well as the hardships they have to go through to survive during that period of time in Romania when the majority of the population was experiencing rationed food,electricity shortages together with severe oppressions from the Securitate. People were given the impression that they were being watched night and day and no communication with outside nations was permissible. The slightest sign of misconduct would have caused them to arrest those charged with innapropriate behavior and throw them in jail or even kill them. In the midst of all this, Mona falls in love with Mihai, a Romanian man that lives in another city to which she travels every summer to spend time with him. Unfortunately, the general atmosphere in the country creates so much suspicion and confusion among the population that people don't know anymore who they are able to trust and who works for the Security Police. Her parents decide that her only way to freedom is to leave the country somehow and make a new life for herself in a democratic country. Throughout the book, Mona describes her life and her challenges and experiences as she travels to America in hope of a better life, without being able however to forget where she came from and what she left behind. I found it to be a very touching story and a very realistic presentation of the way things used to be during the last year of Communism in Romania. It also emphasizes strong family ties and the connection and joint responsability the Romanian population adopted in those hard years to ensure its survival. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to get a better understanding of how things used to be in that part of the world during those times. This book provides a historical insight without losing its emotional touch.
pjpick More than 1 year ago
Although I found the author's writing style a little hard to read, I still found myself being pulled into Mona's story. Probably like most of us out there, I've read very little fiction about Romania so I really have no baseline to compare it to. The author is very knowledgeable about Romania during the 1970s through 1980s and I found the story very informative. Although another reviewer has panned this book stating the story was more of a person's of priviledge (unlike most Romanians during that time) I don't think it should be panned because of this. It was the life the author knew, and if this life is one of priviledge,it certainly shows how bad things were in Romania. The book was rating a strong 4 stars for me. Unfortunately there were so many dream sequences that by the time I was about 2/3 of the way through it became really irritating and I would say to myself, "Really? Again?." Also, <spoiler alert> I felt there was this big build up towards the ending which ended with a mild thud--sort of like a pebble hitting a dirt path.
Frisbeesage More than 1 year ago
Train to Trieste follows the life of Mona Manoliu starting when she is a teenager in Romania during the reign of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Times are hard, there are food shortages and restrictions everywhere, and people live in fear and suspicion. However, life goes on, and in the midst of the fear and deprivation Mona falls in love for the first time with a mysterious boy named Mihai. When Mona's family begins to die in improbable accidents she flees Romania for safety. Years later she is living in America, trying to forget her past and build a new life. But she can't forget Mihai, her first love, and the summer she left him behind. She returns to Romania determined to learn the truth of what happened the summer she left. This book is a nice addition to the many historical fiction books that have become so popular. It gives a clear accounting of what happened in Romania in the late 1970's under Ceausescu and how it affected the lives of ordinary people. The story is beautifully and poetically written. Unfortunately the plot is a bit slow and its easy to lose interest in Mona's plight. I listened to this book on audio, read by Yelena Shmulenson and her thick Yiddish accent definitely adds a lot of atmosphere to the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago