Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Twelve Little Cakes by Dominika Dery

genre: memoir

When Dominika is born, her country of Czechoslovakia is under the iron fist of Communism.  Her parents, however, are dissidents which makes Dominika's life a struggle, to say the least.  In a world where her neighbors are ready to report any movement her family makes, where every project requires bribery of some kind and there is only ever money to barely get by, Dominika somehow ends up with a loving and, strangely enough, charming childhood.  Beginning in her very early years, Dominika's memoir of living in the outskirts of Prague during the late 70s and 80s paints a unique picture.  She is a clever and naughty one, sometimes her antics made me cringe or laugh out loud!

Especially as she gets older, I truly got a sense of what life must've been like living in Prague during that time period.  The clear juxtaposition between party elite and those who do not support the regime.  It's almost comical, how her father had to finagle everything because he refused to give in to the pressure.  When I put it together that she's only about 18 months older than me, I had to wrap my brain around how different our two upbringings were, despite the fact that we were going through it all at the same time.  Sometimes it even felt nearly dystopian, like 1984, the way you were watched, interrogated, fired from your employment.  I can't imagine the relief when the Velvet Revolution finally created a more open government - little Dominika's entire childhood was a shifting and growing awareness of how different she was because of her family's decision to not support the Communist government.

I really liked this - it's an incredibly readable story and while I always have a hard time with memoirs that are so descriptive when one was so very young that you can't possibly remember EVERYTHING, even the tone of the book, Dominika's experiences at school and with her family, they just were good reading whether they were perfectly accurate or not. She a refreshing little heroine and despite her family's hardships, she seems to have been given an incredibly solid foundation.

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