Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Pacific Book Review:


One could sense English is not Florin Grancea’s native language as his well written first person autobiographical narrative takes the reader deep into the historical Communist mindset in The Pigs’ Slaughter.  Grancea uses many short sentences, mostly factual statements without embellished adjectives; nothing more - nothing less than necessary, analogous to the subsistence of the Romanian population back in the latter part of the 1900’s.  This gives The Pigs’ Slaughter a “foreign” written voice into a form with credibility enabling the reader to understand the author’s feelings, the historical significance and his emotions; all “foreign” to people not exposed to this culture and way of life growing up in the United States.
To slaughter a pig for a family’s Christmas feast and to provide food throughout the months to come, you need a rope, a bucket to collect the blood and a sharp knife.  The pig is a smart animal, smarter than a family dog, and knows very well what is about to happen when being approached for the kill. Florin Grancea uses a raw description, journalistic in style, of how the pig is killed, drained of blood and dismembered.  The articulation of a pig’s death is compared to young Romanian soldiers massacred by their ruler Nicolae Ceausescu, in a far less humane fashion. The levels of lies and propaganda presented to the people behind the Iron Curtain peeled like the onion sliced to be eaten with pig lard.  The many TV images shown on old black and white TVs to the population in between newsreel footage of the Russian dictator’s photo ops and travel exploits were stuffed with lies like the smoked sausages stuffed with spices.  The death of the pig, as well as the revolutionary soldiers, had a grotesque reality, a stench and a raw uncensored truth, yet needed to be told.
This is the basis of Florin Grancea’s historically accurate and compelling story written from the viewpoint of a young boy observing the culture, actions and consequences of what was going on within his family and his surroundings during the staged terrorist uprising leading to the trial and execution of Nicolae Ceausescu and his controlling wife Elena during Christmas of 1989. Grancea builds over the first 100 pages of the book much detail of the political environment, then barely took half a page to detail the demise of the tyrants.  The lives of those ancillary to this event are masterfully woven into perspective bringing both the past of Romania and its future into the then current situation. Poverty and scarcity were the norm. “When the shops were empty, and stomachs empty, too, the country’s economy changed into a barter economy,” Florin Grancea wrote.  He said how people would steal this or that, than barter it and barter what they got even more until food was finally received.  “Even the words used to describe it changed. Nobody used the word steal anymore.  Steal was negative.  So they used complete instead.  They were completing their needs…” he explained.
The Pig‘s Slaughter reveals history in a truly unique way. Unforgettable in its realism and humanism, this book will be etched indelibly into your memory and pondered often when some of the circumstances of history are brought to mind.  Florin Grancea gives us all a gift with his fine work, as his book is destined to seek critical acclaim and many reader accolades. I strongly recommend this book to young adults so they can benefit from his view of history they fortunately were not a part of, yet which shaped the world we now all coexist peaceably.  Also, I highly recommend this to mature readers seeking historical accuracy to past epic events from the World Wars to the rise and fall of Communism. While reading this book one learns the lesson that the slaughter of a pig for sustenance is much more humane than killing people for power.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Good review4:

After reading this review I had a revelation: my book reads better with women than with men.

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Unputdownable, March 2, 2011
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Pigs' Slaughter (Paperback)
A long time ago in Romania a man planted a nut tree in his garden so that his family would benefit from it's fruits. He positioned it on the boundary of his property so that his neighbours could freely avail of it's bounty. And they did, in fact as time rolled on the neighbours had more of the nut tree than his family. No matter, there was enough for everyone. Now, his grandson Florin has mentioned this in a much bigger story that we are somewhat familiar with, the fall of Ceaucescu in 1989. He is searching for the truth and finding it bit by bit. His story is vibrant and authentic, skilfully smooth yet at times raw and raggedy like a breaking news report. I read it in two sittings because it was unputdownable. Apart from the great storytelling skill this is an important book about our times. Quite simply I think everyone should read it. And I want more, looking forward to his next offering.

Good review3:

I contacted John knowing that he sharp and very quick with his bad reviews. I got a good one instead.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, February 18, 2011
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
A couple of days ago Florin Grancea contacted me and asked if I would read and honestly review his book. Being flattered that he valued my opinion I agreed, asking that he return the favor by reading and honestly reviewing my book. He agreed bought my book and gifted me with his. We do not know each other. We have never met. I like this man who I do not know. The book deserves an honest review. It is very good! It is not totally clear to me, but I believe it is his personal memoir of the Romanian Revolution of 1989 filled out with facts he learned much later. Prior to reading this I had virtually no knowledge of those events or of the lives of the people of Romania. Mr Grancea is an excellent writer. His writing does not get in the way of the story he is telling. It was very difficult put this down even for everyday reality. The characters in the book have real depth. Any editing flaws are minor, I did not note any. In short I recommend this book very highly. Also as of this writing I do not know if he has finished my book or what he thought of it.

Good review2:

Michael Dickson is a former newspaper editor in US, God bless him, he likes my style.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book, March 7, 2011
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Pigs' Slaughter (Paperback)
During the tumultuous times in the late 1980s when the Soviet Empire was coming unglued and the Berlin Wall was falling, revolution also came to the Communist country of Romania, which had been ruled since 1965 by Nicolae Ceausescu and his nasty wife Elena, especially Elena.

The Pigs' Slaughter is an autobiography that covers those fast days around Christmas of that year. Florin Grancea was 14 years old, and he was a very sharp boy. And he's now a very sharp man, and a very good writer, especially when you consider that English is not his native tongue. He is self-taught, and he's a great teacher. He learned well and he has a wonderfully personal English style.

This book is short (150 pages) and moves quickly. The technique is fascinating. The story jumps between two events, first one, then the other, rapidly with hardly a break. The first is that his family was going through the traditional preparations for a Romanian Christmas. And while doing this, they were watching the revolution on their ancient television. One moment we're awaiting the Christmas carolers, and watching the food preparations which included the slaughter and butchering of a pig.

Then people are being shot on live TV amid rampant confusion, and Grancea is providing historical background from the future, specifically from Japan where he now lives with his family. It's all threaded together in a fascinating and imaginative way. Of special interest is how the dictator and his wife were finally shot to death, more pigs slaughtered.

Excellent book, also available on Kindle.

Bad review 1

OK, this guy is reviewing mostly socks and pieces of plastic about which he writes 500 words (he's a pro, not mental) but he was right to say that I needed an editor. But not as bad as he thinks:

0 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
2.0 out of 5 stars A little too raw, March 6, 2011
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Pigs' Slaughter (Kindle Edition)
Pig's Slaughter is an almost-stream-of-consciousness recall by the author, his attempt to reconstruct the 4 days that changed Romania, his native country, around Christmas time in 1989. Florin Grancea was 14 then and he and his family watched the events on television whenever the slaughter and processing of the family-raised pig and the dressing of the family Christmas tree permitted.

A 14 year old living in a remote Transylvanian town wasn't exactly plugged into the reported events and neither the television or the wild rumors could be relied upon but, 20 years later, the now mature Florian Grancea was apparently able to fill in some of the gaps with the conclusions of unquoted but probably serious and reliable studies and investigations. They apparently proved that the so-called Romanian revolution was a badly executed, scripted event, orchestrated and coordinated by Soviet agents ordered to replace Ceausescu's brutal, old-fashioned Stalinist communism with Gorbachev-style glasnost communism.

But, more than anything, we are what we eat, or so the saying states and the bulk of the book is dedicated to detailed explanations of how to properly kill a pig, take it apart, process the various parts and organs, cook it and eat it. And there are so many ways to cook a pig. Deep-frying in the pig's fat is or was most important to a Romanian-style breakfast back in 1989. Pig fat, guts, meat, blood, brains, ribs, skin, even the pig's raw ears are treasured and consumed all throughout the winter and pig parts can be traced even in some of the more traditional delicious Romanian deserts.

And, as the various methods and recipes are revealed, the Romanian revolution rolls on. New leaders grab power, bloody fights are staged, everybody gets hysterical, bullets fly, people get drunk, people are killed, Ceausescu and wife are executed, Romanians are free, life goes on.

Sadly, freedom is never free. The revolution marks the abrupt transition from delicious and nutritious home-cooked meals made from organic but usually hard to get (because Ceausescu had them rationed) ingredients to genetically modified, cheap processed foods that cause children to be dumb and fat and housewives to lose important homemaking skills such as cooking. In the free and more democratic country people no longer slaughter pigs with their little kids traditionally riding the dying animal as grownups are collecting its blood in buckets and the new color TV sets that used to be dedicated to broadcasting communist propaganda are now airing mindless game shows or Latin soap operas.

The few days of the Romanian revolution and the few covered events experienced by the young Florin Grancea mostly through TV watching seem to be the canvas on which the grownup author projects his own views on the meaning and benefits the transition to a West-style mass-consumer society. And the author goes down to the very foundations of our existence: the foods people eat/ate, the tastes, textures and flavors and the food's availability.

Florin Grancea's story is surprisingly readable but it's far from perfect. Probably the author's first 'book', he makes a mistake common to most debutant writers: the belief that editors are optional. They are not if one's ambition is to produce a quality text. And an editor is even more needed when English is not the author's native language. A friend, no matter how well-meaning can't replace a professional editor. The story as published abounds in 'distractions' such as completely unneeded vulgar expressions, references to events not known to those unfamiliar with Romania's recent history, stylistic excesses such as the author providing the reader with someone's last thoughts as the person dies, strident statements of opinion, unsourced allegations presented as undisputed facts.

The idea of anchoring the coverage of a political event around a series of traditional pork-based recipes is original and it does make for some interesting reading but, in the end, the material appears unprofessional (no editor), unpolished (done in a hurry), too opinionated and not properly sourced (written by a journalist?). Three stars would stand for "It's Okay" but, in my view, "The Pig's Slaughter" is not Okay. The author seems to have things to say and to want to say them loudly but the loudest voices aren't always the ones that are heard. I believe that he has the talent needed to say them in the form of a good book but it will have to be a future work or a major re-write of this one.

Good review1:

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Bitter-sweet memoir of a people decieved, March 2, 2011
This review is from: The Pigs' Slaughter (Paperback)
How long does it take to kill a pig, or execute a dictator? How easily is freedom won and lost in a web of deceit? And who will weep at the funeral of a good Communist?

Author Florin Grancea was a fourteen-year-old boy in Romania, helping his father slaughter the family pig while Ceausescu's regime went to the wall in 1989 and the world looked on. Memory flavors his account in The Pigs' Slaughter with sights and sounds of family farm, gritty and poignant details on pig-killing, sausage cooking, mouth-watering, Christmas-cake-rising delights, all set against the background of a black-and-white TV set and news colored with lies. Hindsight offers truth behind the agony and irony, bitter-sweet as well-boiled wine.

Freedom beckons while father hopes the Russians will stay out and son wishes for shoes. But freedom turns out less sweet that it was imagined. The author salts his tale with the darkness of coming poverty and the death of his country's beloved traditions. Democracy wears fake jeans, as false as imagined terrorists and cruelly staged destruction. His people deceived, the author looks back and invites readers to see the falsehood of our own promises, or at least to open our eyes; remember what we've had before we lose it; and build on solid ground.

The history of two world wars is woven into the tale of five days in December just as seamlessly as the future and present day. The voice is consistent, the opinions fierce, and the facts well-researched by a boy turned journalist. The author's memories seem painfully, achingly real, right to a final scene of death, false victory and true forgiveness. I want to taste those Christmas treats. I mourn their loss and the loss of innocence. And I salute an author whose writing has brought it all to life.

Check this out!
This Saturday is the big day, if you are interested in thinking, give it a look.