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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Days of the King

Filip Florian

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To purchase The Days of the King

Title: The Days of the King
Author: Filip Florian
Genre: Novel
Written: 2008 (Eng. 2011)
Length: 207 pages
Original in: Romanian
Availability: The Days of the King - US
The Days of the King - UK
The Days of the King - Canada
The Days of the King - India
  • Romanian title: Zilele regelui
  • Translated by Alistair Ian Blyth

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Our Assessment:

B : quite appealing historical fiction

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 16/5/2011 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "Though readers come to know this strange time and place, there are pages of summary that prevent a full involvement with some of Joseph and Prince Karl's most vital experiences -- or even their dialogue." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Days of the King is, in a way, historical fiction: one of the central characters is Prince -- later King -- Carol, and the novel describes the years from when he came to power in Romania in 1866 to 1881, when he was crowned king. These years cover a time when Romania made the transition from a loose assemblage of separate regions nominally part of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires to being (relatively) consolidated into an independent state; Prince Carl -- born in Germany as Prince Karl Eitel Friedrich Zephyrinus Ludwig of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen -- was the outsider brought in to run things. (The founding monarch of modern Romania, he would go on to rule until his death in 1914.)
       Central though he and his rule are, Carol is not the primary focus of Florian's novel, which instead follows Joseph Strauss, a German dentist who finds the prince's favor (the prince has serious dental issues which require repeated treatment) and decides to follow him to exotic Bucharest and set up shop there. He's not part of the court or anything, but remains in frequent contact with the prince, and their lives continue to overlap as they adjust to their new homeland, their roles in it, and, for example, founding families. Between the two of them, Florian is able to give a surprisingly rich and detailed picture of the times.
       What impresses most is how Florian doesn't rely on history to propel every aspect of his novel; instead, he allows it to remain a backdrop -- often prominent and bright, but nevertheless just a supporting part of the canvas. Much of what happens is relatively simple and mundane, yet the result is a more convincing picture of the times than that found in many far longer and more in-your-face-historical fiction -- in no small part because Florian is very attentive to period detail but doesn't show off with it. From the 1866 journey to Romania -- complicated by the Prussian-Austrian War, which necessitates false identities and travel via Switzerland -- to rapidly changing Bucuresci/Bucharest and the political infighting of the day, Florian gives a good impression of this peculiar corner of history. (An Appendix offering 'Political Background' for foreign readers helps explain much of what is going on, but while the details certainly do enrich the reading experience -- and presumably those much more familiar with Roman history and society easily find additional layers of interest --, they are not absolutely vital to it.)
       Florian's style -- roundabout, often playful, sometimes downright languorous -- switching from the domestic or intimate (including Carol's teeth, as well as the occasional sexual adventure) to the grand stage of the court (where not everything goes off in the most statesmanlike manner, as in one very amusing episode of Carol's audience with the Ottomans) makes for a rather enjoyable read. Typical are scenes such as Joseph Strauss walking through town, wanting: "to see the city at play in the early summer, when the light blended with poplar down and swarms of flies" -- exactly the sort of way Florian likes to see and show things. And there are many fine, playful touches, beginning with a 'Belated Prologue', inserted after the first chapter.
       A curious but largely successful melding of the historical with fiction, The Days of the King is an intriguing and often engaging work, though ultimately it also feels a bit too shapeless: while Florian's willingness to go beyond the bounds of traditional historical-fiction-presentation is admirable, he often allows his super-imposed stories to drift too easily about.

- M.A.Orthofer, 17 July 2011

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The Days of the King: Reviews: Filip Florian: Other books by Filip Florian under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Romanian author Filip Florian was born in 1968.

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