A comic romp celebrating late-flowering love in a Hungarian village that will appeal to readers of Absurdistan, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian.
Valeria is a whale in a puddle. She harrumphs her daily way through her backwater Hungarian village, finding equal fault with the new, the old, the foreign, and the familiar. Her decades of universal contempt have turned her into a touchstone of her little communitywhatever she scorns the least must be the best, after all. But, on a day like any other, her spinster's heart is struck by an unlikely arrow: the village potter, long known and little noticed, captures her fancy, and Valeria finds herself suddenly cast in a role she never expected to play. This one deviation from character, this one loose thread, is all it takes for the delicately woven fabric of village life to unravel. And, for the first time in a long time, Valeria couldnt care less. With humor and sensitivity, author Marc Fitten delivers an unexpected and entirely inspiring first novel that will leave you begging for more.
"Fitten is not always successful in balancing character development with the larger themes of power and progress, but the irascible Valeria makes such a unique heroine that readers may be willing to overlook the story's less fluid elements." - Publishers Weekly
"Enjoyable and poignant, this work is recommended." - Library Journal
"Fitten populates his fairy tale of a novel with bitter-coated sugarplums of characters; they will definitely win a place in your heart, even as theyd never stoop to asking for one. In a Hungarian village so small as to be nearly outside of historythe Germans, the Soviets, the capitalists, no one bothers to stop in this hamletthese sprites still manage to cheat, love, hate, drink, and make pottery for one another with a level of passion were more accustomed to associating with the very engines of expanding or decaying empires. A beautiful debut." - Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances
"A thoughtful, skillfully drawn portrait of one woman, one village, and one country." - Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan and The Russian Debutante's Handbook
"Marc Fittens excellent new novel has much to recommend itwisdom, warmth, humorbut it is his creation of the title character herself that is his and the novels most remarkable achievement. Valeria is every bit as sensual and irrepressible as Chaucer's Wife of Bath, and she will linger in any readers mind long after the last page is turned." - Ron Rash, author of Serena
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Rated of 5
Valeria's Last Stand
This was a thoroughly good read, brimming with examples of quirky behavior, the flaunting of social conventions, and the ensuing, not always predictable resulting consequences. Despite their many foibles, the characters are sympathetically drawn. The reader is likely to feel validated when identifying with any of the characters who populate the small world of Valeria's village.
Rated of 5
Carole C. (Conyers, GA)
An Assault on the Senses
Valeria has remained a single woman all her life, in a small village with no secrets. Yet somehow, late in midlife she is struck while at the market one day by Cupid in the form of a widower, the local potter.
He is a wonder with his hands and has the heart of an artist. He awakens her sensuality. She inspires him to create art rather than function as the local potter. It is a difficult match, with a competing love interest for each of them in the form of a "lucky" chimney sweep and the local lady tavern owner.
The action and local intrigue are lively and propel the reader forward to see what will become of the characters, of different life stages, different ambitions and unrequited loves.
It is a good read that harkens back to not so long ago when one could still imagine a peaceful village, populated with folk with their minds on their work, on love and a bit of passion.
The notion of a woman of standards and who values hard work as a muse is a welcome addition to my literary imagination. Thank you Marc Fitten!
Rated of 5
Gunta K. (Whitehall, NY)
Disjointed Romance Novel
The novel Valeria's Last Stand, takes place in the small country village of Zivatar, Hungary. Predominantly the story twirls around two women Valeria and Ibolya. The latter owns a bar in same village. The women are not friends, they are competitors for much of the length of the story for the traveling chimney sweep. The action depicted is mostly among the over sixty crowd. I do not recommend this book because it is disjointed, not a flowing work, not positive. Has no redeeming characters or moments. Worst of all, describes the women as some slovenly beings unable to keep their men home, away from the bar and its owner. Given the fact that half the action takes place in the open market, nothing is said about how and who is working the fields to produce all the food sold in this market. That would have been the positive. The numerous references to sex, on behalf of the women mostly , are quite vulgar. Lots of corruption on behalf of the village officials. One gets the impression that all this takes place in the fifteenth century and not during the time of great changes in all of Europe a little more than a decade ago. When democracy and freedom was on the mind of all of Europe. I did not like this book and do not recommend it.
Rated of 5
Kat F. (Palatine, IL)
Oddly complex and entertaining
I started out not really liking this book, though I could empathize with the curmudgeon Valeria and found myself admiring her, even cheering her on on occasion. Surprisingly, the more I read, the more I identified with some characteristics in each of the main players. So, while I didn't necessarily like them, I could understand them and their motives.
It was an entertaining first novel, struggling to find a pace and get some steam going at the start till about halfway through. But once it found it's momentum - it held me till the end.
Rated of 5
Adult fairytale for seniors
Valeria's Last Stand is set in Hungary at the end of Socialism. The characters are mostly senior citizens adjusting to the social and political changes happening around them. I loved that it showed seniors striving for the same things young people want: passion, love, sex, hope and inspiration. I would recommend it to those who enjoyed books like Chocolat by Joanna Harris and Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn.
Rated of 5
Valerie's Last Stand
I enjoyed this book very much. It was especially fun to have main characters be strong, colorful, and over sixty! Some of the events in the story become a little bizarre, but it all seems to fit together. The jacket of the book talks about this story being a fairy tale, so I knew it would be fanciful. The people and the setting - a small Hungarian village make for a wonderful story with lots of action, warmth and humor. I look forward to Marc Fitten's next book.
Marc Fitten was born in Brooklyn in 1974 to Panamanian parents. He spent much of the 1990s living and traveling in Europe, based in Hungary. Hes been published in Prairie Schooner, the Louisville Review, and the Hogtown Creek Review, and has published a napkin online at Esquire. Marc is a Ph.D. student at Georgia State University and received the Paul Bowles Fellowship for Fiction. He is currently the editor of the Chattahoochee Review
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