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Reviewed by Jaycee Allen for Readers' Favorite
In Claire Doyle’s Hollywood Balaton, the narrator, Laura, a woman of almost fifty, disillusioned with modern life and contemporary English values in Brighton and traumatized by a terror attack in Paris, arrives in Hungary. She goes to live in Levendula, the family house of Max, her new lover. But Max, detained in Budapest by his mother’s illness, is absent, and it is up to Laura to discover the large mysterious Lake Balaton that is so central to Hungarian identity in the western part of the country. The vanished communist regime still throws its (albeit pale) shadow over the lives of the people she meets, and she finds herself caught up in the mystery of a vanished manuscript. To pass the time waiting for her lover, she becomes obsessed with the glamorous lives led by Max’s actress mother and writer father.
Claire Doyle has done a beautiful job of painting Balaton’s landscape (too often ruined by tourism) with its original magic, mystery, and romance. The colors, odors and the entire atmosphere are intense, and the images of the past with its vanished characters, faded stars, and forgotten glory are a delight. That Max seems a less than ideal lover and his extreme reactions incomprehensible only add to the story’s mystery. And whether or not we agree with Laura’s values, we are definitely rooting for her. Hollywood Balaton: To Catch A Thief On The Hungarian Riviera is an intriguing and interesting quality read.