The Bucharest Dossier by William Maz: 3***

The Bucharest Dossier is a novel like none other I have read because it is basically a historical fiction book about the last days of the Romanian regime under Nikolai Ceausescu. The author, William Maz, at one time lived in Bucharest and does a wonderful job of telling us about the chaos that was prevalent throughout the country in December of 1989.

            On a personal note, my wife, Magdalena, was born in Romania and grew up under that Communist dictatorship before escaping the country in 1984. Thus, for me, a lot of the facts in this book are not new, but if you don’t know the intimate details about what went on in 1989 this book does a very good job of setting forth what was happening throughout the country and how the overthrow of the regime did not start in Bucharest but rather in the western town of Timisoara. If you like espionage books, and if you are a fan of spy versus spy then this is a book for you because there are so many plots and subplots that were going on as everyone tried to remove Ceausescu from power, but at the same time everyone was trying to find out where his secret bank accounts were hidden.

            When it comes to the bank accounts and some of those other details, that’s where things start to fall apart for me in this book. And I think had the author stuck to merely historical fiction book about the overthrow it would have been more powerful then when he combined a love story for the ages along with a rather implausible Hungarian spy who supposedly orchestrated so many details of the narrator’s life. Our narrator is Bill Hefflin, a CIA analyst, born of Greek parents who moved to Romania before emigrating to America and who is seemingly plucked out of nowhere to gain entrance to Harvard University and eventually the Columbia University Business School.

            As a child, Hefflin had a love of a girl he knew only as Pusha (a word for Doll), when he and his parents left the country and moved to America. He was only nine years old at the time but that love lasted the entirety of the book even though he fell in love with another girl during his time at Harvard. I guess we needed a love story amidst all this ugliness in Romania, but it is by far the weakest part of the book. While the love story might not have been my favorite part of the book, it is all tied in with the revolution along with all of the machinations of the different spy agencies, along with the Securitate in Romania. We have the Russians, Hungarians, Romanians, Americans and others all trying to influence what’s going to happen in December of 1989 and whether it will it be a bloody coup or will it be a peaceful overthrow. The one point that the author does drive home is that unlike in Poland or Czechoslovakia, there was no beloved leader to take over in Romania. They did not have a folk hero, they did not have anyone that they could stand behind, and so after the fall of Ceausescu he was succeeded by Ion Iliescu who merely changed his stripes from being a communist to a Social Democrat, and the same people who are in power prior to the revolution mostly remained in power after the revolution, which is still the problem with Romania today!

            It is a fascinating look about a still little known country, a country that still has not overcome the deprivations of the communist regime, and which struggles to this very day with poverty, lack of infrastructure and other basics of civilization. I think that if you do not know anything about the Romanian country and the overthrow this will be a wonderful book for you to begin learning about that entire bloody situation back in 1989 and I certainly congratulate the author on bringing this to our attention in a very readable format.

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