Title: Valeria’s Last Stand
Author: Marc Fitten
Release Date: April 28, 2009
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Valeria’s Last Stand is set in a Hungarian village in the post-Communist era. As the town is trying to take advantage of capitalism and find prosperity, Valeria, a woman who is hated by the townspeople, begins to notice the potter. Though they have known each other for years, Valeria find the potter more and more attractive, incurring the wrath of Ibolya, the woman who runs the town bar. The tale of these larger-than-life characters make up the story that runs through Valeria’s Last Stand.
I originally was interested in Valeria’s Last Stand because one of the reviewers or the blurbs on the book compared it to Salman Rushdie, saying that Rushdie fans would enjoy Marc Fitten. Since Salman Rushdie is my favorite author, I jumped at the change to review Valeria’s Last Stand.
Valeria’s Last Stand has a fable-like quality to it. All of the characters are larger-than-life and are very funny. Additionally, the overarching message – that of change versus things staying the same – makes a good “moral” for the end of the fable. Valeria herself is unpleasant, yet endlessly amusing. As a result, she grows on the reader quickly, and proves herself to be incredibly well-developed and entirely three-dimensional. In a lot of ways, Valeria is the best part of this book because she is so complicated, yet so well-written.
While I did enjoy Valeria’s Last Stand, and understand why Fitten was compared to Salman Rushdie (the fable quality of the book), it is a disservice to Fitten to compare him to Rushdie. When one author is compared to another, the reader goes in with certain expectations, expectations they likely would not have had if that comparison had not been made. I was expected beautiful and fluid writing like Rushdie’s, and when I didn’t get that, I was disappointed. That is not to say that Fitten’s writing is bad at all – he is a good writer and a great storyteller. I should have given Fitten a chance to prove himself on his own terms, rather than coming in with expectations. It’s a good illustration of the danger of comparing authors, especially comparing a debut author to Salman Rushdie.
Valeria’s Last Stand was an entertaining book that I definitely enjoyed. I liked the depiction of small town life in Hungary; Fitten created a wonderful atmosphere simply through his words. Additionally, the communism versus capitalism discussion was very interesting. This was a fun work of literary fiction that I recommend, but I definitely would tell you not to go in with the expectations that I did!