Earlier this year I decided to start reading contemporary authors from my home country – Romania 🇷🇴. That’s how I got to read The Innocents by Ioana Parvulescu – a book I received from a dear friend on my wedding day, when she (secretly) coordinated with all my friends so that each one brings a different book as wedding gift 🙂 Imagine my face when I saw 30+ guests with books as presents – priceless!
The Innocents by Ioana Parvulescu in a nutshell
The Innocents by Ioana Parvulescu, published in 2016, is a novel about the childhood of Ana, a young girl from Brasov, Transylvania region in Romania. Through the eyes of Ana we are told stories about her family, the community, and the city that was in a continuous transformation.
The book is like a collection of interconnected stories from the narrator’s childhood. It is not a book that you devour in one sitting, but rather savour it chapter by chapter.
Ioana Parvulescu admitted that the novel is slightly autobiographical (the house exists, the described children exist as well), but there are lots of fictional elements as well (Adevarul.ro, 2016).
Reading The Innocents was a super interesting experience from multiple perspectives. First of all, it was one of the first Romanian books I read in a long time, and I was suprised by how much I enjoyed it! Yay!
Secondly, reading the stories told by Ana made me smile more than once – I could relate to the mischiefs made by her and her cousins, as well as some of the Communist-related experiences of her family. Despite the fact that Communism ended in Romania right before I was born, I still got to hear many stories from my family about those times.
Thirdly, it was very thoughtful how the stories were told through the eyes of a child, but there were also reflections of the adult narrator on the events. Sort of “explanations for grown-ups” given at the end of the chapter – just one or two sentences, but very impactful and eye-opening.
The house with a soul
The house where Ana grew up, together with her extended family (incl. grandparents, cousins) is a character on itself, a member of the family: “She had in her genetic code all the people with whom, during my childhood, I intersected inside her, with all the ones she hosted for a while” (extract from the book).
The house evolves with the times, it has hidden treasures, and its shadows grow as some family members pass away. It is like a sanctuary, a mythical place where wonders happen. At least that’s how young Ana, the narrator, sees it.
The world through the eyes of a child
Reading The Innocents reminded me of other books I read with children as narrators – the same innocent, uncomplicated way of seeing the world. Just a few examples from recent times:
- The Diary a Young Girl by Anne Frank (my review)
- The Little Friend by Donna Tartt (my review)
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (my review).
As a side note, some time ago I wrote a post about children from books who teach us valuable life lessons – read it here. I would definitely add Ana from The Innocents on the list!
Below are the translations I found, with non-affiliate links to local places/shops where you can find more information:
🇩🇪 German: Wo die Hunde in drei Sprachen bellen (publisher Zsolnay-Verlag)
🇵🇱 Polish: Niewinni (publisher EMG)
Unfortunately the book is not yet translated in English, but if you want to read another book by Ioana Parvulescu, check out Life Begins on Friday (publisher Istros Books). I haven’t read it yet, but it seems to be the most famous and appreciated book written by her.
My conclusion: The Innocents by Ioana Parvulescu is a great read, an immersion into the realities of being a child in the 1960s in Transylvania, through the eyes of a child and the grown-up reflections of the same child now adult.
I really hope the book will be translated in English – until then, I will recommend it to all my friends speaking Romanian, German, and Polish 🙂
‘Till next time … happy reading!