Bottled Goods

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The harsh realities of communist Romania in the 1970s coupled with magical realism are the subjects of Sophie van Llewyn’s Bottled Goods. The focus of the novel is Alina, a teacher who becomes a target of the Secret Service after her brother in law defects to the West. The reader gets to know her through her marriage, her relationships with her aunt and mother, and her professional life. She’s someone with self- consciousness, bravery, and intelligence. She endures a hardship that those of us raised in the United States have a hard time fathoming, but van Llewyn shows us that world with realism and care.

The novel is told in short bursts, flash fiction style. Some sections are told in the third person and some in the first person. There are lists and other techniques that break up the novel, but in a natural, engaging way. It’s a very quick read and feels authentic. There is a tense, dreamlike quality to story, the reader isn’t always sure exactly what reality is. The magical realism is an Eastern European folkloric magic, not unlike Cuban and Caribbean writings, that interweave between reality and unreality. I enjoyed Bottled Goods, even if parts of Ceaușescu’s Romania are unsettling to see in the eyes of Alina.


Reviewed By:

Author Sophie van Llewyn
Star Count 4/5
Format Trade
Page Count 180 pages
Publisher Harper Perennial
Publish Date 7/28/2020
ISBN 9780062979520
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue September 2020
Category Popular Fiction
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