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Memoir set in CROATIA

21st September 2022

My Family and Other Enemies by Mary Novakovich, memoir set in Croatia.

Memoir set in CROATIA

Croatis is becoming a hotspot tourist destination and this timely memoir will offer insight for anyone who craves a little personal background and insight into the country.

The author is of Serbian heritage, from a small enclave in Croatia; a handy map at the beginning shows that the family’s provenance is from Lika, near the Plitvice Lakes, not far from the Bosnia/Hercegovina border. Early on, the author’s parents happened to meet in London. The earliest memories she shares are when she is sent off to stay with family in the family homeland in 1976, and, although she had been learning Serbian at home, the reality of the language in its native setting was just a little different! In those early days she describes how she bonded with her heritage and that inspired her subsequently to get to know the country and learn more about her geographical and cultural heritage.

She went on to undertake further visits in the early 2000s, notably with her mother in tow (not an easy trip, given the fiery nature of their relationship). She hires a rental car in Belgrade (Serbia) but even in more recent times, she has to be a little circumspect about travelling with a Belgrade registration plate through Croatia. This is of course because of the very dark history of the area, and she lays out in very simple terms the dynamics of several wars and the atrocities that occurred during WW2, which formed an on-going backdrop to Croatian independence in June 1991. At that point, pockets of Serbs in the country were unsettled with the move to independence, and small enclaves in other countries that made up Yugoslavia also began to establish territory and marshal resistance in an attempt at self preservation. But as we are only too well aware, the whole area was blighted by a terrible war in the 1990s and of course the ripple effect from those years can still be felt in the country today, whether it be ruined buildings, changed countryside or ingrained attitudes.

She details encounters with family members, places of family interest and dives into the food options with real gusto, which is heavily meat based; plus, of course, rakija. There are family photos included in the book to add a personal tone to the adventures the author has undertaken there. The book will make a lovely history for members of her family and offer a bit of personal history for readers who care to understand a little more about the country.

The title is no doubt niftily inspired by Gerald Durrell’s book My Family and Other Animals (Set in Corfu). Just a quick note on the cover: I feel it really wouldn’t entice me to pick the book up, the image just feels a little on the amateurish side, sad to say.

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