When the Summer Was Ours

Written by Roxanne Veletzos
Review by Waheed Rabbani

In 1943 in Sopron, Hungary, young Eva is spending a summer at her aristocratic family’s country estate. She is due to be married to a doctor who is away working at a hospital elsewhere. A sequence of events brings Eva and Aleandro together. He is a charming Romani fiddler and artist; despite their class differences, they fall passionately in love. Unfortunately, a violent incident separates them, and Eva returns to Budapest. Although Aleandro escapes then, the Nazis capture him and intern him in Dachau, where he survives, using his portrait-sketching skills.

He writes to Eva but receives no direct response. At the end of the war, disheartened Aleandro arrives in New York, where he determines to hone his artistic skills to attain an identity and financial success. He strives to break through the class barrier to Eva.

Roxanne Veletzos has penned this unusual historical novel upon learning of the plight of the Romani people during WWII, called the “the forgotten Holocaust.” Through Aleandro’s story, Veletzos has covered their lifestyle before and during WWII well, though we learn little of the Romanis’ lives following the war. The use of family secrets, betrayals, and sacrifices adds intrigue and interest to the storyline, but coincidences and some incredible incidences construct the plot, such as Aleandro and Eva not seeking each other after the war. Readers would need to set aside their disbelief to enjoy the novel.

Written in Veletzos’ unique voice and style, the narrative reads fluidly. The descriptions of the countryside in Sopron, wartime Budapest, and the damage to the mansions are written evocatively. The New York scenes are well set to play in our minds. But in the end, the overly dramatic conclusion seems unnecessarily long and drawn-out.