Black Sea Twilight by Domnica Radulescu

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (5 Aug 2010)
  • ISBN-10: 0385614284
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385614283

1980’s Romania:

As the sun sets on the magical shore of the Black Sea andcasts its last rays across the water, all Nora Teodoru can think about ispursuing her dream of becoming an accomplished artist – and her love for Gigi,her childhood boyfriend from the Turkish part of town.
But storm clouds are gathering as life under dictatorNicolae Ceausescu becomes increasingly unbearable.  His secret police are circling, never far from the young couple’sdoors.
Nora and Gigi make plans to escape Turkey.  But nothing can prepare them for the eventsthat follow …
The first part of the story is spent getting to know moreabout Nora, her family, Gigi and his family … and what it is like to be livingunder such a regime in Mangalia.  We geta sense of the rhythm of Nora’s life and the political precepts.
Nora, aged 15, is spending the summer running wild withGigi, who is a little older.  Theirfamilies follow different religions. Nora’s mother works in an office at theschool but during the summer, rents out most of the house to tourists and so isbusy cooking and looking after their guests. Nora and Gigi pretend to be beggars in the marketplace and get up to allsorts of mischief.  This summer, Nora isready to paint the images she has in her head but she can only see theirleaders face.
We get to learn a little about the background of Nora’smaternal relatives in relation to Communism and we find out how politics shapetheir lives today.
It is not until Nora and Gigi save a drowning Polish émigréAnushka (who lives in France) and the ensuing attraction between Gigi and Anushkathat Nora realises she feels more for Gigi than childhood playmates.
Nora has a twin brother, Valentin, who has been living witha maternal aunt in Bucharest since they were aged ten.  He is a piano prodigy.  When the aunt is dying, Valentin moves backinto the family home.  From this moment,life starts to change for Nora.
Black Sea Twilight is written in the first person fromNora’s perspective.  I’m not surewhether I liked her character – she is such a whirlwind!  She goes through so many dramaticexperiences that you can’t help but admire her stamina and perseverance infighting for what she wants.  Nora has adisability, she is ‘uneven’ – on one side of her body she has a smaller breastand arm.  This was portrayed so wellthroughout the story.  At no time was itseen as a disadvantage.  It made nodifference to how people related to Nora. At her first art lesson in Bucharest, the art teacher comments on howgood it is to be able to create different techniques from Nora’s different sizehands.
The story has many different threads.  There is the developing love between Noraand Gigi.  Nora’s experience of familylife, which has been directed long ago from the parenting Nora’s own motherreceived.  We get to experience what itis like to live under a Communist regime – a different culture from our own –and how that shapes choices made which can be life-threatening. We learn aboutfriendships and how one friend can help another salvage their own life fromheroin addiction.
The writing is beautiful and evocative without making thereader feel swamped.  It’s easy tobelieve you are living the pages of the book.
Personally, I enjoy reading about different cultures and thedifferences between my own.  It isthings like this that makes us stop and ponder about what life really means andthe freedom we may have to achieve our goals.

I am giving Black Sea Twilight the following rating:

I won Black Sea Twilight from Love a Book, an online readinggroup.  It is their October read.  I’m looking forward to joining in with thediscussions at the end of this month.  Iwould like to say thank you to Love a Book for giving me the opportunity toread it.


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