Title: An Exclusive Love: A Memoir
Author: Johanna Adorjan
Publisher: W.W. Nortan & Company (2011)
Rating: 2 stars
I saw An Exclusive Love in a list of books a blogger would never read again. Most people would take this as a negative; however, I decided I liked the cover and wanted to read it (i.e., impulse Amazon purchase).
In my defense, this blogger claimed she wouldn’t read the book again because it struck too close to home. I, on the other hand, have relatively no personal experience with suicide, so I figured I might like it.
Johanna Adorjan’s grandparents committed a dual suicide, shocking everyone in the family. In the words of Adorjan:
“This book tells the story of Vera and István, Hungarian Jews who survived the Holocaust, fled during the 1956 uprising in Budapest to Denmark and in 1991 in Copenhagen took their own lives. They were found in their bed, hand in hand. It is the story of an unusual love. The story of my grandparents.” (wwnorton.com)
That makes it sound so dangerous and romantic! Unfortunately, this book is anything but, which makes sense, because who wants to condone or aggrandize suicide? But this is the stuff of a Shakespearean-scale tragedy (hello, Romeo and Juliet) and yet the story is stale and
I know it’s a memoir but self-centered without informing on the author.
Johanna Adorjan is a well-known journalist, and I expected her writing to be topnotch. To my disappointment I found the writing very dry–some of that may have to do with the fact that it was translated. An Exclusive Love had so much potential for a fictional tale of grand proportions, but as a memoir it was less interesting. At the end of the story, we know virtually nothing about Adorjan except that even years after her grandparents’ death she is sad and feels betrayed.
To Adorjan’s credit, she attempts to come to terms with her grandparents’ feelings about suicide, which is the most interesting part. She recognizes her grandmother’s deeply rooted insecurity–despite her outward queenly appearance–and the desperate need to never be alone (even if it means death). These speculative bits of insight are truly compelling.
I would have liked to see more information on Vera and Istvan’s history in the Holocaust and immediately thereafter. However, Adorjan claims that it was impossible to get them to talk about it.
Maybe I just don’t like memoirs?? The limitations of truth are so frustrating!