Troy Patterson
April 18, 2008 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The White King

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Gyorgy Dragoman
publisher
Houghton Mifflin
genre
Fiction

We gave it a B+

In a rushing stream of lucid language, 11-year-old Djata narrates a coming-of-age tale from somewhere behind the Iron Curtain, sometime before glasnost. Many of his preteen traumas are universal — e.g., disorienting jolts of feeling for a classmate emitting ”that big-girl smell” — while others are painfully specific to growing up in a dictatorship: Dad’s doing hard labor in a prison camp, and radioactive winds from Chernobyl have a way of screwing up soccer practice. Author György Dragomá is a Beckett scholar, training that shows in his unsentimental way of staring blankly at towering absurdities through a child’s eyes in The White King. B+

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