PERESTROIKA wins 2023 HFC European Book of the Year

8th House Publishing is proud to announce that Joao Cerqueira's upcoming novel "Perestroika: An Eye for an Eye, a Tooth for a Tooth" has won the Historical Fiction Company's 2023 European Book of the Year award.

See the full list of winners.  
Here is the full Editorial Review:

"Perestroika" unfolds in an oppressive setting in Slavia, illustrating the diversity of characters ensnared in President Alfred Ionescu's web of authority. The narrative explores the lives of key figures, such as Ludwig Kirchner, the silent dissident artist, and Solidarity leader Adam Jacek, providing a vibrant depiction of a society stifled by censorship and fear.
Kirchner's arrest, whose artistic spirit clashes with President Ionescu's sanctioned official portrait, sets the tone for the suppression of creativity. The regime's manipulation, exemplified by the cunning tactics of Commissioner Zut Zdanhov, adds intriguing layers of politics.

As the plot unfolds, tension rises, starting with the bold escape attempt of Solidarity members Rufus and Zacko. The harsh consequences they face underscore the cruelty of the regime. Questions about survival, loyalty, and the price of resistance add depth to the narrative: "Will those two escape alone, or will others take the chance to join them? What will they do once they’re out? Will anyone be waiting to help them? Will they try to get out of the country or go into hiding? And what if they’re caught? Will they be killed? It’s too risky for you to join the fugitives.”

The author skillfully intertwines personal struggles with the broader political landscape, creating a compelling story of resistance in the face of oppression. "Perestroika" promises an engaging exploration of power dynamics, dissent, and the human spirit in a society grappling with its tumultuous past.

On the one hand, there's Silvia, with a deep education and a commitment as a New Woman, who finds herself in internal conflict between her socialist beliefs and the discovery of an imperfect world. She knows people who have disappeared and has seen men shrouded in the darkness of reeducation. Despite these dark aspects of society, Silvia remains deeply attached to socialist causes and dreams of building a better future for all. However, when faced with the dilemma of reporting someone to the police, Silvia fears for Leonidas, the only person she has ever loved. Despite her devotion to the Party, Silvia begins to question its methods and justice. The tense dialogue with Leonidas reveals Silvia's profound conflict between loyalty to the socialist system and doubt about the Party's authoritarian methods.

The book continues to highlight the conflicts and dilemmas of Ruth Meyer in her clandestine relationship with Helena Yava and her new position as the Director of the Boys' Orphanage in Tiers.

In this forbidden love story, Ruth faces social pressures and ethical dilemmas. Previously married to a military officer to meet family, societal, and Party expectations, Ruth discovers her true happiness in her work as a teacher. However, the clandestine relationship with Helena Yava puts her in a delicate position, and Helena, as the People's Commissar for Education, has her own ambitions and conflicts related to this relationship.

Nominated for the position of Director of the Boys' Orphanage in Tiers through Helena's influence, Ruth discovers the horrors and shortcomings of the institution. The old building, poor living conditions, and inhumane treatment of the children add a tragic dimension to the story. Additionally, the appearance of a Party official wanting to take two boys for a weekend in a villa raises questions about his motivations and the consequences of his actions. In a society where norms are dictated by the Party, Ruth's dilemma in this situation highlights the moral and ethical conflicts faced in the attempt to create the "New Man". As Ruth faces fears and uncertainties, and Helena tries to offer support.

The book continues, further exploring the evolution of the character Albert Remus and the tensions created in the artistic world under Zdanhov's leadership. Albert Remus, a Party member and privileged playwright, faces substantial changes in his artistic creation under the influence of the new directions imposed by Zdanhov. If before the revolution Remus addressed complex topics such as love, betrayal, and revenge, he is now constrained to bring more realistic complexity to his characters, eliminating the exaggerated image of the perfect hero.

Zdanhov suggests to Remus that their literary works must transcend propaganda and endure over time as valuable works. This implies a change in direction for Remus, who must return to his previous approach characterized by doubt, hesitation, and moral ambiguity.

Despite his inner struggles and confrontations with authorities, Remus becomes a symbol of artistic resistance and perseverance in the face of oppression. In this context, the book emphasizes the author's ability to explore character evolution in the context of social and political changes.

Igor Olin is the next character we discover, a complex character who brings notable depth to the story. Initially framed as an artist aware of the desire to rise above the limitations of oppression, Olin is captivating in his process of navigating the complex artistic and political world. Olin experiences significant changes in his attitude toward the Party and the regime as he explores his own artistic voice. He grapples with different emotions, emotions that occur when he looks at his son, Aliocha, who suffers from cerebral palsy. Trying to find a balance between authentic artistic expression and the demands imposed by authorities adds tension and ambiguity to the narrative.

The author highlights the growing tragedy with the death of Ludwig Kirchner and the dramatic events that follow. Kirchner's disappearance, as well as the way it is handled by authorities, adds a layer of intensity and emotional impact. At the same time, the reactions of other artists and dissidents to this loss highlight solidarity and resistance in the face of adversity. Kirchner's death marks a turning point in the story and acts as a catalyst for subsequent events. The intensification of the struggle against the regime, as well as the shocking revelations that emerge, add complexity and nuance to the intrigue.

Events such as the tragedy at the fertilizer factory, the revelation of Ruth Meyer's death, and the confrontation between Jacob Levi and Zut Zdanhov bring a new wave of dramatic twists and surprising revelations. In the context of these events, the story delves deeper into mystery and conspiracy, providing readers with strong reasons to explore the next pages. In this context, the book continues to emphasize the author's skills in masterfully managing multiple narrative threads and maintaining a captivating pace. The complex plot, intertwined with personal dramas and ethical dilemmas, offers a rich and substantive reading experience.

Lia, the daughter of Kirchner and the central character in the novel „Perestroika” brings a unique and captivating dimension to the story. Despite the oppressive atmosphere and dramatic changes in the totalitarian society, Lia maintains a fearless spirit and unwavering determination. As a talented artist, Lia faces pressures and threats from the regime but refuses to compromise her creative vision and integrity. The offer of exile opens up a horizon of freedom for her, but the dilemma between personal salvation and staying in the fight for change adds complexity to her character. Through Lia's evolution, the author explores not only political and social aspects but also the depth of the human spirit in the face of adversities.

It was one o’clock in the morning, and Lia could not sleep. She put her hand on her belly and felt the baby kicking. She smiled. It was not the discomforts of pregnancy that kept her awake. The exile in Paris had turned out more complicated than she supposed. [...] One part would be real, another part she would have to invent, but was not that how History had been written throughout the centuries? What is truth? Pilate had asked Jesus. The truth was what the majority decided it would be at any particular moment. Pilate had found Jesus innocent, but the crowd considered him guilty. That was the truth on which Christianity had been founded. Now it was her turn to play Pilate, and in contrast to him, she had decided that Ionescu’s regime was guilty. [...] To perfect the justice of the Old Testament was the solution. Forgiveness had a price for the executioner: some demanded one of his eyes, others a tooth; I will be satisfied with writing the truth.”

"Perestroika" stands out through the author's ability to create complex characters and explore the subtleties of a changing society. It is a captivating journey into recent history, blending political, social, and personal aspects into a fascinating tableau of the struggle for freedom and truth. The author provides a profound insight into the souls of the characters, and readers are captivated by their evolution in the face of the challenges of oppression.

"Perestroika" not only delights with a well-crafted story but also prompts reflection on the human condition in the face of the pressures of tumultuous history. 

********* Winner 2023 HFC European Book of the Year **********