People Almost Always Long For Change

Book Number 4: No Saints Or Angels, by Ivan Klíma
Country: The Czech Republic

In her dreams, Kristyna murders her ex-husband.

Jana, Kristyna’s daughter, is rapidly sliding into drug addiction.

Jan, Kristyna’s lover, is in danger of uncovering too much in his investigations of war crimes in Prague.

In contemporary Prague, these three individuals, all at different stages in their lives, struggle to find happiness from life. Each narrates parts of their own personal battles. Kristyna, a depressive dentist, is the centre of the story. Her life is scarred by the death of her grandmother in a gas chamber during the holocaust, her father’s intense Socialist ideals that overshadowed his interest in his daughter, the betrayal of her ex-husband, and her deceitful teenage daughter, who steals and lies to fund her drug habit. Gradually, Kristyna learns that she wasn’t the only one her father or her husband let down and she slowly begins to find the strength to let the past go.

Although I found the greyness and bleakness of this book hard work at first, as the story progresses, Klíma’s philosophy emerges – there are no saints or angels in life, and as long as we can make our peace with that, the beauty in life will become apparent. The depressive depiction of life at the outset of the book is a gratifying contrast to the hope and promise Kristyna eventually realises life contains – “You live so long as you have something to expect.”


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