Review: Fever at Dawn by Péter Gárdos

Imagine the perfect love story; finding your heart’s desire through the beauty of putting pen to paper. You fall in love and a whirlwind romance leads to a life of happiness. Now imagine this story set against the backdrop of the end of World War II. Then add to that the unimaginable horror of having survived life inside a concentration camp.

We won’t speak of those times.

Fever at Dawn, is film director, Péter Gárdos’, debut novel. What makes his story all the more compelling is the fact that it isn’t just a story; it’s a true story of how his parents’, Miklós and Lili, came to meet and fall hopelessly in love. The reader is introduced to Miklós as he faces death on-board a ship heading towards Sweden. Suffering from what is considered (at the time) a life-threatening case of TB, he is taken to convalesce and it is here, his ambition to find a wife and his subsequent romance with Lili, begins. In the hope of finding a spouse, Miklós tracks down the details of women convalescing in Sweden, who originated from or near his hometown, and sets himself the task of writing to all 117 of them. Lili thinks little of her letter, surely sent in error? But as she lay in her hospital bed one bleak evening, she is decides to reply.

It’s an age-old cliché but the rest, as they say, is history. Lili and Miklós share delightful quips and details about their lives, more present than past, and gradually become acquainted through the beauty of the written word. With the help of their delightful (in most part) friends, their romance blossoms into something that you, the reader, relish being a part of. Knowing that the snippets of their love letters are real, makes Gárdos’ narrative come alive. He adds a welcomed humour to his characterisation and you really feel Lili and Miklós growing as a couple with every turn of the page.

There are times when their romance seems destined to fail; those in authority clearly do not favour young lovers or, ‘cousins’, as they are otherwise known. It is somewhat of a milestone when the pair finally meet. All the nerves of a first date coupled with their obvious ailments do not make for a particularly romantic encounter, but Gárdos’ makes it so with his beautiful prose. However, awkward silences are filled with harrowing thoughts and images of the past.

We won’t speak of those times.

This unlikely romance works against all the odds and you will find yourself spurring the couple on as they live out their young love. Fever at Dawn, is wonderfully innocent, harmless and as genuine as love should be. The truth behind the words makes it very special indeed.

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Fever at Dawn is released on 7 April 2016 through Doubleday and Transworld Publishers.     

Thank you to Alison Barrow at Transworld Publishers for providing me with a proof copy for review purposes.

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