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Publisher's Summary

A memoir of brutality, heroism and personal discovery from Europe's dark heart, revealing one of the most extraordinary untold stories of the Second World War.

In the spring of 1945, at Rechnitz on the Austrian-Hungarian border, not far from the front lines of the advancing Red Army, Countess Margit Batthyany gave a party in her mansion. The war was almost over, and the German aristocrats and SS officers dancing and drinking knew it was lost. Late that night, they walked down to the village, where 180 enslaved Jewish labourers waited, made them strip naked, and shot them all before returning to the bright lights of the party. It remained a secret for decades, until Sacha Batthyany, who remembered his great-aunt Margit only vaguely from his childhood as a stern, distant woman, began to ask questions about it.

A Crime in the Family is Sacha Batthyany's memoir of confronting these questions and of the answers he found. It is one of the last untold stories of Europe's nightmare century, spanning not just the massacre at Rechnitz, the inhumanity of Auschwitz, the chaos of wartime Budapest and the brutalities of Soviet occupation and Stalin's gulags but also the silent crimes of complicity and cover-up and the damaged generations they leave behind.

Told partly through the surviving journals of others from the author's family and the vanished world of Rechnitz, A Crime in the Family is a moving and revelatory memoir in the vein of The Hare with the Amber Eyes and The House by the Lake. It uncovers barbarity and tragedy but also a measure of peace and reconciliation. Ultimately, Batthyany discovers that although his inheritance might be that of monsters, he does not bear it alone.

©2017 Verlag Kiepenheuer & Witsch (P)2017 Quercus Editions Limited
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

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Profile Image for Dorottya Anna Kiss
  • Dorottya Anna Kiss
  • 01-03-21

Pulitzer worthy topic... oh wait, the book is not even about that topic

The English title of this book is very misleading; yes, there was a suspicion that a serious crime was committed by an ancestor of the author, but it is such a small part of the story (and we never reach a conclusion), then book is not about that. The original title “What Do I Have to Do With It” seems more adequate, because the book is about that.

The title sold me the book but the author quickly abandons the topic and devotes his time to investigate another episode, significantly less sensational. He goes off on various tangents, including some very self-indulgent ones – like his conversations with his therapist (obviously not a good one), or an encounter with a Hungarian prostitute (I really didn’t really understand why this had to be part of the book, because it’s clearly not connected to the story on any level, especially detailing a sexual encounter), where the conclusion is that some people have more serious problems than his mini identity crisis.
The whole thing ends up being a chaotic mess. A little bit memoir, a bit investigating reportage, a bit of self help and many little irrelevant stories not related to the story line; a whole lot of confusion. Sometimes I had the feeling that the book was written by at least two person, one who can write and one who can’t.

The thing was not helped by a very bizarre narrator choice for this audiobook (even though he would be perfect for other books). A 47 years young Swiss journalist is narrated by someone who sounds like an 80+ year old, who does accents for any bit of dialogue done by any Eastern European but allows his British accent to shine in the main narration. There is some achievement in pronouncing foreign names of people and places, but it makes it even more annoying that where at some names they took the effort, in most of the cases they didn’t.
And here I have to talk about the translation. The author is living in the now, the translator in the past. It felt like the story was written by someone so long ago, using phrases, expressions and words that no living people under 100 years of age would use, or by a (older) person who lives in a cave, away from modern life and modern language. In the meantime the author lives today and is not old, nor a hermit; he is young, modern and uses modern language,

There were bits of this book that I enjoyed – especially the diary parts. However, all in all this book did not live up to my expectations, even though I was very, so very hopeful, regardless to the reviews I read about the book.

1 person found this helpful