Book Review: “Red Hands” by Colin W. Sargent

Colin W. Sargent is the founding editor and publisher of the award-winning Portland Magazine.

If someone were to suggest that I might like a novel about Romania in the 1060s through the 1980’s, I’d have laughed. However, Red Hands by Colin W. Sargent is a novel I absolutely loved. The story is told by a character based on a real life character. Jordana Ceausescu, daughter-in-law of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena. She told her story to author Sargent after coming to America following overthrow of her former in-laws. Sargent then wrote the novel.

Jordana grew up in Romania, living well with a father who was part of the Communist Central Committee. As a young woman, she fell deeply in love with Valentin Ceausescu and his “dark hair and eyes now glossy with intelligence.” She found him “jaguar-handsome.” His family and her family were not pleased with the coupling or the subsequent marriage.

Says Jordana: “Becoming a Ceausescu was like stepping through an invisible membrane of fear, though in my happiness I was barely conscious of it. Like my country, I tried to ignore the evidence of trouble all-around me.”

And more: “The newspapers reported everything was fine and we had more than enough, but we all had to wear coats night and day, even in bed. Then the electricity was rationed. Valentin didn’t seem to care. In fact, the cold weather brought out the best in him. He was courageous, and these were some of the happiest weeks of my life.”

But the years moved on and though the country’s leadership was wealthy, the people of Romania suffered in many ways detailed in the book.

For Jordana, she found that husband Valentin ultimately fell in love with someone else and her family was shattered.

“It wasn’t that long ago we’d had lunch with his ‘friend.’ I was angered to think that perhaps even then she’d been feeling the memory of Valentin inside her. With all of Valentin’s soccer games and the research he did at the institute, how could he ever found time for her? Hadn’t I given him this son?”

Times got harder for for the country’s leadership, and riots broke out. Anyone with the last name of Ceausescu (or former last name) was a target. Jordana and her son were terrified.

The reader becomes a partner with Jordana through good times and bad. Through her eyes, we see historical events, greed, desire, power and what it means to be free. Readers of historical fiction, I recommend Red Hands highly. I could not put this book down.


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