La Petite communiste qui ne souriait jamais/The Little Communist Who Never Smiled by Lola Lafon


Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Historical fiction, biography

Medium: French paperback

Synopsis: In the 70s, a small girl becomes one of the most important figures for her country and her sport.  Meet Nadia Comaneci, a gymnast who, by 1976, will have been the first person to get awarded a perfect 10.  After that, she will continue to win six more perfect 10s.  Lola Lafon interviews Nadia to get her perspective on Bela, her trainer, and Romania, which is undergoing a communist regime and views her as an idol.

Review: First of all, I have to say that part of the reason why I bought this book was because of how absolutely gorgeous it is.  Just look at that gold cover.  It has the ability to reflect what you put in front of it.  And, on the inside, the first and last couple pages are a deep red.  This sort of visual symbolism definitely piqued my interest, as well as the pose of the little gymnast on the cover.

Now, moving onto the story itself.  Can we even call it a story?  It is neither historical fiction nor biography, despite me putting it in those categories.  Lafon transcends genre with this novel thanks to her expert abilities to create a work that teeters between categories.  Lafon interviews Nadia to gain her perspective; includes past interviews, history, and context; and somehow creates a plot, literally of Nadia’s lifetime, that is well-done and not melodramatic.

And, I have to say that as a non-native French speaker and someone who’s interested in Romania, this book was very interesting and informative, both in language and in history.  I never knew the type of mental and physical stamina these girls needed to have in order to compete, and how their country affected them in its time of political change.  It is for all of these reasons which I give this book 4 stars!

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