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This review is of the book "In Praise of Older Women : The Amorous Recollections of Andras Vajda" by Stephen Vizinczey.
The basic plot of this book is that a young man decides that instead of trying to date and meet women of this own age, he instead goes out to meet older women in a variety of different locations and circumstances. The book details the main character's experiences in this effort to develop his own character.
The locations in the book are based on the period just after World War Two, and go from Hungary, to Italy and then finally through to Canada. The author was eduated in Hungary and took part in the Hungarian Revolution in the 1950s, so knows the area well. This also gave the book an added interest to me, as it gave a good background as to how Russian politics was spreading to Eastern Europe at this time.
In terms of the book itself, I found it well written, and although the basic premise of the story was interesting and indeed very relevant for the time it was first published, I found the book in places a little shallow, because it just seemed to push the notion of "younger man dates older woman" with a sometimes lack of otherwise depth.
With reference to the actual writing, I found it more than adequate, and the book was very well written, but some of the turns of phrases used I found to be a little less than adequate, and didn't seem to necessarily be as tightly written as I've read elsewhere. The author's first language however isn't English, and so whether the author writes in English themselves, or the book is translated, that is often where the literary edge can be lost.
There is a lot of energy in the book however, which made it fun to read and very accessible. I was able to finish the book quite quickly, partly due to its short length, but also partly because the story did flow well, and it was an up-lifting and thought provoking book.
The book was originally written in 1965, when the author Stephen Vizinczey was himself in his early 30s. The book has clearly had a great influence on many young men who read the book when it was first published, and it can only be guessed how many relationships were formed after reading this book.
The book has also been turned into a film on two occasions, one a Canadian film and one a Spanish film. It has also no doubt been of great influence to numerous other producers and writers.
The book retails for 9.99 pounds, although is currently available new from Amazon for 5.35 pounds. If you're happy with a second hand copy, these are available at the time of writing from sites such as eBay and Amazon for around four pounds.
There are other editions of this book available, but this review is for the book with ISBN 0141192062 (9780141192062 using the new ISBN system), which was published by Penguin Books as part of their Classics series in March 2010. The book is 256 pages long, so is quite a short book.
In summary, this was a fun book to read, and thought provoking. It's quick to read, and whether this is a book you read in your youth or you are new to the title, it's definitely worth considering, and even more worthy of consideration if you're a young(ish) male!
This is actually quite an important book for me, for a number of reasons, the prime one being that I acted on its advice.
Let me set the scene - The late eighties. There are two young, randy heterosexual men sharing a flat in Edinburgh - one of them has been given "Praise of Older Women: the amorous recollections of András Vajda" - to give the book its full name, and begins to read it on a Friday morning. He sits for four hours reading it, stopping only to pop the top off and belime Coronas. Meanwhile, his flatmate tries to get through the third level of "Aztec Challenge" on the Commodore Amiga. The sounds of the city float in through the open widow. An idyllic scene.
"What a book!" Our hero exclaims as he read the last sentence.
"Yeah, whatever." Says his friend. Not a big reader. "Ah! These bloody aztecs keep stabbing me in the neck! What do you want to do tonight?"
"Let's go out an pick up OLDER WOMEN!" I - oops! Our hero, rather, says.
And that's what we did. At the age of 19, we go to a singles bar an pick up a couple of thirtysomething women. ( - or rather WE were picked up by them!) I went out with my one for several years before we parted amicably (she went back to her husband).
Anyway. All that happens in the book is that the eponymous András Vajda - quite a young man - cuts a swathe through thirty and forty somethings across Europe, specifically in Hungary, Italy, and, eventually, Canada (the location of the author.) It's a well-written book, not mysogynistic at all -just a paen of love to the experienced older woman. it's erotic without being coarse (although you might not want to give it to your maiden aunt!). All in all a fun read for the liberated.
I'm older than the women in the book now, and I have a different perspective, but I still take down this book and read favourite passages, and the happy memories associated with it are as clear as ever.
All in all, a book that might just stay with you for life, if you read it at the right age.