The story begins in 1914, shortly before the beginning of World War I, in the tiny, remote Hungarian village of Faluscka. Fourteen year old Sari Arany's father, Jan, is a taltos, or wise man. He is very well-respecteed in their village, but not Sari. Wise women tend to be feared, and since her mother died during Sari's childbirth, rumors have surrounded Sari her whole life. Sari has been promised to Ferenc, the eighteen year old heir from the wealthiest family in the village. That was the custom in Hungary at the time: Girls' parents chose their husbands for them. Before Jan dies suddenly from a heart issue, Sari promises him that she will wait until she is eighteen before marrying Ferenc. World War I intervenes before Ferenc can persuade Sari to break her father's promise, and he goes off to fight. Sari does not live in her father's old house because it would not be proper, so she moves in with Judit, the village's midwife and rumored to be a witch.
About two years into the war, the army commandeered Ferenc's family's estate to use as a prisoner of war camp. The army holds many Italian prisoners there, and the army gives them far more freedom than is seemly. By this time, the women of the village have become accustomed to making their own way and not answering to overbearing, sometimes abusive, husbands. Many of the women have affairs with the prisoners, and many of the women are not happy when the war ends.
Sari has a relationship with an Italian named Marco. He was a history professor before the war, and Sari befriends him initially because she has a true love for learning. As Sari's services as a nurse are needed at the prison, Sari has the opportunity to meet with Marco, and their relationship deepens. At the end of the war, Ferenc comes home, and he is not the same young man he was before the war. He is abusive and cruel to Sari, and he forces her hand. She decides to kill him with arsenic to protect something precious to her, and her actions start a series of events that spiral crazily out of control.
I enjoyed The Angel Makers overall, but I must warn you that Gregson drops tons of f-bombs, and she is overly fond of the word discomfited. When writers overuse words, it is a distraction to me. I also found it difficult to sympathize with Sari in spite of the book's theme of choices and feminine empowerment. Still, Gregson's plot moves steadily along, and I could not put the book down. I read it in two days even with my very busy schedule this week.
What have you been reading lately?
Until next time...