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The Twelve Little Cakes by Dominika Dery

The Twelve Little Cakes

by Dominika Dery

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This was an amazing and surprisingly uplifting read which was just what I needed right now in my life. It's interesting when books come into your life with perfect timing.

This seems like it would be a heart crushing read since the premise of the memoir is a little girl growing up in Communist Czechoslovakia with, as she describes at the end of the book, 'no money, no choice, no chance.' However, the story revolves around her family, a tight-knit unit navigating the unfair laws of the time as they are constantly hampered by neighbors who want to report them and the secret police punishing her father for his work with the former government. The father is endlessly optimistic and determined, the mother is gentle and encouraging of her daughter's dreams, and there is a lot of love in the family. We should all be blessed with this type of family.

The story is told with the voice of the author at her current age looking back at the events. The naivity of Dominika at that young age is well conveyed but also punctuated with insights from her older self about the history of her country and the politics of the time. It is an interesting blend of insight and the gentler perspective of a young child.

I enjoyed learning about the country. Some of their language, some of their tradition for the holidays, how people functioned under communist rule were all very interesting to me.

In the beginning of the book, Dominika comments that during this time good sausage, cheap beer, and plenty of public holidays were enough to keep people going even though times were hard. This kind of hope and the ability of the people in this country and particularly in Dominika's family to find small happiness is inspiring to me as I look at the problems in my own life. This was the happiest time in Dominika's life despite the many tragedies, illnesses, and set backs she faced. All because of her loving family providing a source of strength and safety as she grew up.

I highly recommend this read to anyone who likes memoirs, likes learning about history and other countries and customs, or anyone who wants to read about the strength of the human spirit. This story manages to be funny, uplifting, and inspiring even as it deals with difficult topics and the unfair nature of life. ( )
  winterdaisies | Dec 29, 2015 |
Dominika Dery has written a cute and charming memoir of growing up in Communist Prague in the 1970s, set into a series of twelve vignettes told chronologically. In particular, I liked the stories of her parents, especially her father's home improvement projects and driving adventures. However, the tone of the memoir didn't always ring true to me. The crudity of some language came across to me as sounding false for a memoir told from the point of view of a child. And I wondered how Dery's sister feels about the way she's portrayed.

Everything had a 'happily ever after' feel to it. Dealing with the Communist regime seemed humorous at times, as there seemed to be a workaround for any given situation. I had to admire their spirit and determination, and I enjoyed reading this book, but ultimately came to feel there was something lacking. The juvenile viewpoint and situations of Cakes have made me think I'd like to read something from a more mature point of view. ( )
1 vote y2pk | Aug 29, 2010 |
I don't remember how I found this little book, but I'm glad I did. It's an entertaining memoir of a girl growing up in communist Czechoslovakia, told essentially from a child's perspective. It didn't seem to have much of a concrete ending and that's the spot I find fault with it. For a different yet light and interesting view of the downside of Communism, read the Twelve Little Cakes. ( )
  l-mo | Apr 22, 2009 |
Dominika Dery was born to dissi­dent parents in 1975 Czechoslovakia and writes of her childhood in communist Eastern Europe in this memoir. Included are many stories about the persecution she and her family encountered because of her parents’ involvement in the Czech reform movement that was crushed by the Soviets in 1968. Through a child’s non-­judgmental perspective, the book exposes many of the lies and hypocrisy of the leftist ideology that Dery and her countrymen suffered through during the communist era. ( )
1 vote brentetzel | Jun 17, 2008 |
Dominika Dery grew up in communist Czechoslovakia, the daughter of two dissidents. This memoir covers her childhood from age four to seven. Though her troubled situation provides an intriguing backdrop, her story is more about how, with hope and perseverance, her family life was still a happy one.
  delirium | May 8, 2008 |
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For my mother, Jana, my father, Jarda, and Barry
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A year before I was born, I started turning up in my mother's dreams.
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"Long before she was born, Dominika first appeared in a dream to her mother, so when she came to be, she was welcomed with eager expectation and much love. Though her arrival was auspicious, as the child of dissidents associated with the failed Prague Spring uprising, Dominika would live a life that was far from charmed. Her mother was disowned by her parents, who were members of the Party elite. Her father was an economist whose politics resulted in his working as a taxi driver, but who nevertheless remained an unrepetant optimist. Rounding out the family - colorful, even by local standards - were a beautiful, voluptuous teenage sister with many male admirers, and an enormous St. Bernard who in his youth had been a famous Czech TV star." "In a village on the outskirts of Prague, full of gossipy neighbors, state informants, friendly old "grandmothers, " and small-town prejudices, Dominika grows up a self-possessed child, whose openness and curiosity often lead her, and her family, into trouble. Yet the love, pride, and quirky ingenuity that bind them together will guarantee their survival - and ultimately their happiness - through the best and worst of times. The Twelve Little Cakes is equal parts testimony to the struggles of a bygone era and a love letter to a joy-filled childhood that no external forces could dim."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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