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Editorial Reviews

With her informed Polish accent and remarkable insight, Cassandra Campbell seems astonishingly familiar with the country and culture she represents in her narration of A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True. Campbell captures the subtle differences between each voice through pitch, dialect, and emotion. In a novel packed with so many Eastern European characters, Campbell acquaints the listener with each unique individual, guiding us through Brigid Pasulka’s intricate narrative.

Pasulka weaves two stories in alternating chapters that come together by the novel’s end. The first is the story of Anielica and the Pigeon, a young couple living in Half Village whose plans for a life together are thwarted by Hitler’s invasion of Poland in the 1930s. The other story is of their granddaughter, Beata, whose captivating search for identity takes place in post-communism Krakow in the 1990s. As Anielica and the Pigeon struggle to survive in Old Poland, their beloved village is torn apart by the carnage of World War II. While their sacrifices are substantial, we know that they are made so that future generations could live in a more peaceful Poland (as illustrated by Beata’s complementary narrative). Although Beata has little family left to raise her, she finds comfort and a sense of place in Krakow with her aunt and cousin. Her journey is one that will ultimately allow her a stronger sense of identity with her family who suffered years ago in Old Poland.

A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True is both heartbreaking and hopeful. When an unprecedented tragedy strikes towards the end of the novel, the characters find unity and solace in their country and in one another. Pasulka’s novel is comprised of fairy tale love that exists both for the characters and for Krakow. Campbell pulls us into Poland with her sharp narration, enveloping the listener in the country’s endless culture and history. — Suzanne Day

Publisher's Summary

The novel opens on the eve of World War II. In the mountain village of Half-Village, a young man nicknamed the Pigeon, under the approving eyes of the entire village, courts the beautiful Anielica Hetmanska. But the war's arrival wreaks havoc in all their lives and delays their marriage for six long years. Nearly 50 years later, their granddaughter, Beata, leaves Half-Village for Krakow, the place where her grandparents lived as newlyweds after the war and the setting of her grandmother's most magical stories. Beata yearns to find her own place in this new city, one that is very different from her imagination and the past. Her first person insight into a country on the cusp of change--and the human toll of Poland's rapid-fire embrace of capitalism--transports readers to another world.

When two unexpected events occur, one undeniably tragic, and the other a kind of miracle, Beata is given a fresh glimpse at her family's and her country's, history and a vision of her own essential role in the New Poland. With the effortless, accomplished grace of a gifted storyteller, Pasulka weaves together the two strands of her story, re-imagining half a century of Polish history through the legacy of one profound love affair--that of the Pigeon and Anielica--which readers won't soon forget.

©2009 Brigid Pasulka; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

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The Old & New Worlds Converge & Transcend Time

This has to be one of my favorite books in a long time. The perfect blend of writing, audio production and narration made for an excellent audible experience. I don't know how I missed reading this until now--it has been around since 2009. I'm chalking it up to a terribly inaccurate audible editor review. Specifically, saying that the book is about Hitler invading Poland in the 1950s and that it is a fairy tale is misleading. No, I correct that--it is in my opinion absolutely idiotic. If you know any history (or if you can google) you know that Germany invaded Poland in September of 1939 AND that Hitler committed suicide in April of 1945. It most definitely would be pure fantasy and require lots of magic for him to have risen from the grave and invaded Poland in the 1950s. I mean really????

In truth the book is not a fairy tale, not a fantasy and not about magic. Instead, Pasulka has written a delicately powerful beauty. The focus is on love, family, struggle and the contrast and connections between the old world and the new post war and occupation world. It's about finding your way, bridging both worlds and living out the meaning of life. It is simply fantastic.

The set up of alternating chapters between Old Poland (the grandparents) and New Poland (the granddaughter) took some time to understand and settle into. Once I understood the format, the storytelling took over and I was captivated. The Old Poland chapters were read in a clear non-accented voice--a wonderful choice. The chapters about New Poland (1989) were narrated in a heavily accented voice and sprinkled with Polish words. I resorted to looking up some frequent words just so I could understand what was happening. Campbell did a superb job of making me feel I had traveled to Poland, didn't speak the language and had to work to understand the people. By the end of the book I really felt I knew the characters--a good part of that was due to Campbell's excellent narration.

Not to be missed. I loved every minute.

75 of 82 people found this review helpful

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  • Melinda
  • Shoreline, WA, United States
  • 01-07-12

didn't know what to expect

This book gets 5 stars on Amazon.com and very high marks here...so I knew nothing about the book, so I thought I'd give it a listen...and I am SO glad I did. This is a WONDERFUL story and I can't imagine anyone not liking it. It's probably not for girls under 16 due to a scary rape scene, but other than that, it's pretty violence free, quite funny and I devoured it.

When I realized it was coming to the end I actually started the book over and waited to read the final 2 chapters fresh after reading the book a second time. It made the end...which is somewhat bittersweet...a LOT sweeter since I had just read this magical little book twice and was TWICE as eager to hear the last 2 chapters. I was NOT disappointed. I was gladdened... Such a wonderful book. I just didn't want it to end.

48 of 55 people found this review helpful

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Three generations come of age in Poland

This is a beautifully-told, slowly-unfolding story of how the sacrifices of several families of Polish country people during WWII laid a foundation for the future generations of their families. There are two parallel stories. The grandparents' story in the WWII era sets the scene for the granddaughters' era in the 1990s.

The only factor that kept me from giving this novel five stars across the board is that it is excessively long. The grandparents' story is beautifully crafted and paced, but the story of the granddaughters contains some repetitive scenes that could have used some editing. The narrator is excellent and her nuanced storytelling skills kept me engaged during the tedious portions of the story. I would not have enjoyed the story as much if I had read the book. Still, it's a heartwarming tale and an interesting glimpse into the social and political changes in Poland from the 40s through the 90s.

14 of 17 people found this review helpful

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Can I give it thousand stars?

Oh my, what a book! This story is so absurdly well written, well told, well constructed and well read that I cannot remember anything better.

Really, I can't imagine how my commute will happen tomorrow without Baba Yaga's and Anielica's company. It's hurting me not to have them anymore in my ears all the time.

I've said before--Cassandra Campbell is amazing, but she outdone herself here. This is a work of art! There were moments I wasn't sure if my eyes were welling up because of the story, because of Campbell's reading, or both. Poland has such a beautiful and sad story, I now want to know more about that country.

Thank you, Brigid Pasulka for writing this masterpiece, and thank you, Cassandra Campbell for narrating it so perfectly!

28 of 35 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

very touching

I have read many books now about WWII (just by chance.. The Reader, The Book Thief, The Power of One, etc.) and am always fascinated by the different fictional perspectives. What I love about it too are the various accents. This one was excellent. I have never heard a Polish accent, and the narrator did a fine job of switching from character to character.
The book is very well written, and I was completely absorbed. I highly recommend this one. Well worth the credit and the time.

18 of 23 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Great story even better with a fabulous narrator

Such a great book! It reminds me of the Book Thief (which we all loved, loved, loved!) in its historical perspective, but with a modern spin. It took a twist that I didn't see coming. I fell in love with all the characters, they were so well drawn, AND I got to impress my Polish co-workers with my new command of Polish slang. Listen to this one!!

14 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • Julie
  • Wilmington, DE, United States
  • 03-02-10

Excellent!

What an amazing book from beginning to end. The story is wonderful, and the reader does an amazing job. The accents are spot on. I laughed and I cried and didn't want the story to end. It's a love story to and of the Polish people and their uncrushable spirit. Definitely worth the credit!

13 of 18 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

I love the narrator

This a well written, marvelously narrated story of life in Poland during WW II, the communist era, and Poland coping with capitalism and personal freedom. The books move back and forth from the 1990s to the pre-war Poland. By the end the two meet. I enjoyed the perspective of rural Poland confronting the Nazis and urban Poles dealing with the Communists in the late 1940s and early 50s, but the book did not truly engage me until the last three hours. Had it not been for Cassandra Campbell's narration I would have quit listening before I reached the half-way point. I'm glad I kept going. 3 and 1/2 stars to 4

17 of 24 people found this review helpful

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  • Holli
  • Woodland Hills, CA, United States
  • 05-10-10

Loved it

What a beautifully told story. The narrator was fantastic. She made me cry and the Polish accent was perfect. Cassandra Campbell does not sound like a Polish name so I'm very impressed with her ease of pronunciation of some impossible Polish words. The actual Polish sprinkled liberally throughout was very understandable in context and I felt almost like I was learning a new language. I was one of the American tourists that came through Krakow in 1986. If I close my eyes I can imagine I walked right past Baba Yaga and didn't even know it. It was fascinating to see it through her eyes.

I have already recommended it to many friends.

12 of 17 people found this review helpful

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Don't Give Up!!!

Although the book used alternating chapters that caused me to be pretty confused as to who the characters were and how they were related to one another, I am so glad that I stuck with it and hoped it would all come together. The author ties everything up nicely. The story was certainly heart wrenching, but also pretty light and funny at times. The ending was a real surprise! Kassandra Campbell did an amazing job narrating the audiobook.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful