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5 Questions About ‘Dracula is Dead’

5 Questions About ‘Dracula is Dead’ post image

Title: Dracula is Dead: How Romanians Survived Communism, Ended It, and Emerged since 1989 as the New Italy
Authors: Sheila Kast and Jim Rosapepe
Genre: Nonfiction/Memoir
Acquired: Received for review from the publisher
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Summary: As ambassador to Romania shortly after the end of Communist rule, Jim Rosapepe worked hard to help the country shed the image of an old, dark, haunted place and bring Romania into the 20th century and all that implies. His wife, Sheila, used her skills as a journalist to work with the Romanian people to make the transition possible. In this book, Sheila and Jim chronicle their time in Romania by taking the reader through each of Romania’s eight regions and the changes that have helped shape the country.

Review: I decided to mix up my review format a little bit this time — I’m going to review the book by answering a few of the questions I found on a book discussion page at About.com, which cover the main points I want to get at about this book that, overall, I enjoyed.

1. Did you feel that the book fulfilled your expectations?

Yes, definitely. I was hoping for a book that would tell me about the history of Romania, the culture, and how Romania is starting to change since the fall of Communism. I wasn’t expecting a really fascinating story, but the book managed to surprise me a bit in that the structure and events that happened were better than I expected.

2. How does the setting figure into the book? Is the setting a character? Does it come to life? Did you feel you were experiencing the time and place in which the book was set?

Romania is a huge part of the book, so much that I think it takes on the effect of the character. Through their travels in the country, Sheila and Jim get to know some of the history of each region. As expected, the section on Transylvania and the mis-remembered story of Dracula was my favorite because the section changed many of my notions about that story. Plus, the image of Dracula is one that seems to haunt Romania, so taking time to debunk and explore those myths was important for the book.

3. What about the plot? Did it pull you in; or did you feel you had to force yourself to read the book?

It went back and forth. There were times when it got a bit dry — name dropping and diplomatic speak and society functions aren’t usually my cup of tea — but other parts were quite interesting. I liked learning about the Romania people first, their customs and habits and quirks that make them different from Americans. Although, the sections about the tangled history of the Romanian royal family and some of their drama kept my attention because of just how odd all of it was

4. How did the book compare to other books by the author (or other books in the same genre)?

This is the second diplomatic memoir I’ve read recently, and this one was much better. Although I didn’t love the organization of Dracula is Dead (they went through the eight regions in Romania and shared stories from each region), I liked that the book had a sense of flow to it.  I didn’t love the organization because it felt like the story never built to a narrative or some sort of climax, which I’m used to expecting. But maybe there wasn’t really a high point to build to, so a different structure wouldn’t have worked. I’m not sure, I might just be acting picky.

Anyway, this book also felt less self-absorbed than the previous book — there wasn’t as much a focus on the accomplishments as ambassador, and more a focus on the experience of being an ambassador and learning about a totally new country.

5. Would you recommend this book to other readers? To your close friend?

A qualified yes — if you’re interested in politics, diplomacy, or the changes in Europe following the fall of Communism, then I think you’d find this book interesting, but if those topics aren’t something you’re inclined to read about in the first place then I wouldn’t recommend it because I don’t think the writing or story are great enough to overcome a lack of interest in the subject matter.

Other Reviews: At Home With Books |

If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • A Bookshelf Monstrosity February 4, 2010, 6:41 pm

    I’ve also thought about occasionally doing a review using discussion questions. It’s a nice change of format, both for the blogger and the blog reader. Nicely done 🙂

    • Kim February 8, 2010, 8:49 am

      A Bookshelf Monstrosity: Thanks! I was getting a little tired of my review format, so I figured I would try something different. I liked doing this, so I might try it in the future if it works alright.

  • Kay February 5, 2010, 3:15 am

    I have no idea whether to be glad such a book exists or be annoyed by it. While I have a generally good opinion about Mr. Rosapepe, I don’t think he is enough in touch with the Romanian realities to be able to write a book about it.

    I left a long comment on At Home With Books’ review and I won’t repeat it here, but the gist of it is that one should take everything in the book with a grain of salt. I am certain Mr. Rosapepe has studied the historical part well enough, however the current realities of life are somewhat different than he stated.

    And I will stop here unless I’ll end up adding a major rant on this blog too 🙂

    • Kim February 8, 2010, 8:51 am

      Kay: Thanks for your comment Kay, I’m going to go look at the other comment. I can see wanting to not take a book like this as a definitive book about the current state of Romania. As ambassador, I’m sure Rosapepe only got a certain and specific view of the country that may not mesh with the everyday experience of Romanians. It’s a very Americanized perspective, which has it’s place, but maybe not as the only exposure someone gets about Romania.

  • Kay February 5, 2010, 3:17 am

    That last sentence does not look all that correct. It’s a bit funny to notice how when I’m annoyed at something my English skills drop through the floor. Darn.

  • Jenny February 5, 2010, 6:21 am

    Huh – from the title and your description, it almost sounds like the author feels responsible for having wrought major changes to Romania’s “image” – did you get that impression from the book?

    • Kim February 8, 2010, 8:52 am

      Jenny: Yes and no. As ambassador and wife, the authors did have some role in helping the country make changes to move forward and evolve post-Communism, but I think the book does a good job covering a lot of the historical changes that made current reform possible. I think, generally, they are pretty realistic about their role in the change, but I suppose that’s debatable.

  • Alyce February 5, 2010, 10:52 am

    Great review! I agree with all of the points you made – about the writing style, structure of the book, and the balance between the interesting and the dry.

    • Kim February 8, 2010, 8:53 am

      Alyce: Good, I’m glad you agree! I always worry about being critical of organization because I’m so picky about it, so I’m glad others agree.