Picks and Pans Review: An American Woman

updated 07/20/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/20/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Kati Marton

The heroine of this uneven first novel, Anna Bator, is a successful TV newswoman who returns to Hungary, where she spent her early childhood, to do a series on that Communist country. Her return reawakens vivid memories, including the arrests of her parents, once accused of spying for the U.S. (Much of this is autobiographical.) The book opens with Anna in prison. An extremely convoluted plot explains how she got there. She has lost interest in her marriage to a wealthy Philadelphian. Soon after arriving in Budapest to try and unravel the red tape, she falls in love with an American businessman. Anna has "two cities to deal with. The city of her memories, richly poignant, peopled by larger-than-life heroes and villains. And this placeā€”a city of dry rigor, the domain of small-minded bureaucrats." The political intrigue is so intricate, the power so constantly shifting, that it is impossible to tell which characters are in danger and why. Marton has tried to join tough reality with potboiler romance, and the combination is uneasy at best. The ending provides neither the insights of a top-notch political novel nor the pleasures of a good love story. But Marton, wife of TV newscaster Peter Jennings, was born in Hungary, and many of the details seem wonderfully authentic. Her scenes reflecting the deep nostalgia of the displaced person are sharp and effective.(Norton, $15.95)

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