The Romanian revolution of 1989 was the bloodiest and most violent of all the uprisings that marked the end of Communism in Europe. The trial and execution of the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena on Christmas Day, the street fighting between rebels and the hated Securitate and the pillaging of Ceausescu’s luxurious palaces and villas became, along with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the defining images of the end of the Cold War.
Set during Ceausescu’s last hundred days in power, Patrick McGuinness’s accomplished debut explores a world of danger, repression and corruption. When our narrator, a young English student with a damaged past and an uncertain future, arrives in Bucharest he finds himself in a job he never applied for.
With duties that become increasingly ambiguous and precarious, he soon finds himself uncomfortably and often dangerously close to the eye of the storm. He learns, as he goes, the uncertainty of friendships in a surveillance society: friendships that are compromised and riddled with danger and duplicity. He encounters dissidents, party apparatchiks, black-marketeers, diplomats, spies and ordinary Romanians, their lives all intertwined against a background of severe poverty and repression as Europe’s most paranoid regime plays out its bloody endgame.