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The Angel Makers by Jessica Gregson
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The Angel Makers (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Jessica Gregson

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1037117,210 (3.76)5
Member:FicusFan
Title:The Angel Makers
Authors:Jessica Gregson
Info:Soho Press (2011), Kindle Edition, 340 pages
Collections:Your library, Read 2013, Book Groups
Rating:****1/2
Tags:Fiction, Reality Based, Hungary, murder, poison, husband killers, AC Book Group, ebook, Overdrive, Nashua Public Library, 2013, read 1-13

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The Angel Makers by Jessica Gregson (2011)

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» See also 5 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
I had high hopes for [The Angel Makers] by [Jessica Gregson]. I mean foreign land, war, infidelity, murder, and mystery, how could you go wrong? It did. The language was a bit cruder that I felt it needed to be even for character development. The beginning of the story started so well. The character of Sari was intriguing but as the book went on she seemed to get sucked into the shallowness of the rest of the characters. The ending just fizzled. ( )
  MsHooker | Jul 18, 2014 |
Good start -- terrible second half ( )
1 vote jennbisk | Jun 12, 2012 |
I really loved the first half of the book, describing Sari's early years, her engagement to Ferenc, and the village and POW camp during the war. Once the Hungarian men returned home, though, the author started rushing things. Suddenly everyone was poisoning everyone else, with little explanation, then this total deus ex machina ending out of left field. The first half of the book was five stars, the second half three (or even two, I'm sorry to say), so it averages out at four. ( )
1 vote meggyweg | May 30, 2012 |
Jessica Gregson’s debut novel, The Angel Makers, is one of those novels that will make a reader question his feelings about crimes committed by otherwise admirable people. Is a murder committed with good intentions any less a crime than a murder committed in the midst of rage or lust? Would a good person allow other innocent lives to be taken simply because she does not want to be exposed as a murderess of bad people? Jessica Gregson will have you trying to decide.

The Angel Makers is based upon a series of murders that occurred in Nagyrev, Hungary, over a 15-year period that began during World War I. It is believed that at least 45 people were poisoned in the village during those years; some say the real number is closer to 300. What is not in dispute is that the ringleaders, and source of the arsenic used to kill all of the victims, were the village midwife and her young assistant. These two women, under fictional names, are the central characters of The Angel Makers.

One’s initial reaction might be to wonder how a crime of this proportion, one involving so many people, could have remained undiscovered for more than a decade. Gregson’s description of the utter remoteness of life in rural Hungary during this period, and of the type of self-contained, closed society that developed there, makes it seem very possible – if not probable – that such killers could get away with their crime for a very long time. Even a series of crimes like this one, crimes that claimed the lives of multiple husbands, elderly parents, lovers, and sons, could remain a dark, self-contained secret when so many women had so much to lose.

So, what triggered the murders? Simply put, when Italian prisoners of war were housed near the village, the women caught a glimpse of a life much different from the one they had been living with their husbands prior to the beginning of World War I. With their own husbands away fighting the war, a war from which they might never return, at that, it was too easy for the women to form relationships with the Italians for whom they were paid to cook, clean, and wash. Because security at the makeshift prison was almost nonexistent, soon enough most of the village women had taken Italian lovers whom they preferred over their husbands. When those husbands began to return from the front, the women had a choice to make. Many were quick to choose their Italian lovers and the new lifestyle they had come to enjoy.

Is the murder of a man justified if it saves his wife from years of physical abuse or saves the life of the unborn child carried by that woman? Perhaps, but you decide. The bigger moral question faced by the book’s two main characters involves what they did to hide their secret. They chose to make murder possible for other women who wanted to rid themselves of elderly parents, siblings in line for a family inheritance, or crippled husbands and sons. Was Sari (the fictional midwife assistant) a good woman or a bad woman? Did she deserve to hang – or not? Read The Angel Makers before you try to answer those questions.

Rated at: 4.0 ( )
  SamSattler | Jan 9, 2012 |
http://nwhyte.livejournal.com/1297381.html

If I hadn't somehow come across its author here on livejournal, I might not have picked up The Angel Makers, and that would have been a shame: this is a gripping narrative of a Hungarian village during and after the first world war, whose women resort to murdering their husbands when they return from the army. Almost all the action takes place in the village, stifled and trapped by the monotony of the Pannonian Plain - I saw one review which found this setting unrealistic - clearly by someone who had never been there!

In particular, the central character, Sari Arany (which we can accept as a translatuion convention: in Hungarian she would have been Arany Sari) is a fascinating figure, developing from introspective teenager to being the village midwife, registrar and procurer of poison. The chain of events is triggered by the billeting of captive Italian soldiers in Sari's boyfriend's family home, with all the emotional and sexual opportunities they offer for the women of the village. Sari's unwilling entanglement is entirely credible, and somehow inevitable. She pleads towards the end of the book that she was simply trying to do something for herself, and it rings true.

I read a lot of historical / political literature about conflict, and it tends to centre around the men who dominate historical discourse; The Angel Makers made me think about the histories that are not told. Gregson gives Sari a satisfying end to the story, which (having checked up a little on the historical incident on which the story is based) is perhaps a little bit unrealistic, but even so it is done in a way which stuck in my mind. An excellent read. ( )
  nwhyte | Aug 28, 2009 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
"This beautifully written and engaging debut novel is as compelling as the true story that inspired Gregson. It is sure to appeal to a variety of readers, but especially to historical fiction fans."
added by Christa_Josh | editLibrary Journal, Mara Dabrishus (Nov 1, 2011)
 
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Book description
During World War I, Sari Arany, a herbalist in a small Hungarian village falls in love with on of the Italian POWs housed nearby, when her fiance returns Sari poisons him. Soon other women in the village are coming to her for help in similar situations.
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The women of a rural Hungarian town are all too happy when their brutish men leave to fight in World War I. After the war, when the village men return, Sari Arany, a young woman with herbal knowledge, devises a sinister plan to rid herself of her abusive fiance. Then a friend asks to escape a similar fate and Sari stumbles down a dangerous path. Based on a true story.… (more)

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Jessica Gregson is a LibraryThing Author, an author who lists their personal library on LibraryThing.

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