Plot or Premise
A woman researches the history of women healers in the region of Czechslovakia where she grew up, tracing not only their history but her own.
What I Liked
The main character, Dora, is an academic looking back at the history of women healers that she heard all about when she was growing up. She believed the tales to be mere superstition, but as she looks back, she sees the way these women have interacted with the state, all the way back to trials for witchcraft. I initially thought the story would have some elements of fantasy and magic, but it stays very much to the role of the skeptic reluctantly coming to respect her long lineage of women, most of whose lives ended relatively tragically. I was surprised how much I enjoyed seeing her deal with the Czech state as it went through periods of change, simple things like which records were “open” and which were “sealed”, some of which showed extensive surveillance of her ancestors by the state but which are now available for viewing if you fill out the right form and access the right archive. I was as fascinated about the women healers as about daily life of each part of her lineage.
What I Didn’t Like
The last 20 pages are a bit of a letdown. Without giving away the ending, the story pivots and you’re left with a disappointing “so what was it all about?” more so than a solid closure. Up until that point, it’s obvious why it was award-winning and a best-selling novel in its original Czech form, and why it deserved a good translation.
The Bottom Line
Great story with insights into Czech life