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VINE VOICEon November 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"Enemies of the People" is the seventh book by Kati Marton, distinguished, award-winning former news correspondent for the ABC, and NPR, networks. She has previously penned New York Times best sellers Hidden Power: Presidential Marriages That Shaped Our History; and The Great Escape: Nine Jews Who Fled Hitler and Changed the World. She is also author of Wallenberg: Missing Hero;The Polk Conspiracy; and A Death in Jerusalem. Marton, it turns out, is the daughter of Hungarian journalists of Jewish descent. For this book, she has delved into the files of that small country's former Communist government's once awesome secret police - apparently, with 21,000 employees, that organization dominated its society as brutally as the previous East German Communist government's famous, feared Secret Police, the Stasi; and discovered the truth about a black period in her childhood, when both her parents were arrested, and in jail, charged with spying for the United States. The author also conducted dozens of interviews among her parents' former friends, co-workers, and lovers, behind the former Iron Curtain, that kept East Europe in isolation from the world.

The author was warned: "You are opening Pandora's box," when she filed to see the voluminous secret police files kept on her parents, still kept in Budapest. But she did. She discovered a lot she never knew about the pair; their anti-Nazi activities during the German occupation of World War II; their love affairs; their struggles with the Communist apparatchiks; their lives, surrounded by Communist informers, even down to her childhood French nanny.

For, make no mistake about it: the Communist apparatchiks hated her parents: they were of high bourgeois background, well-educated and -cultivated, owners of beautiful furniture and pictures, and excellent bridge players that kept them popular at the British and American embassies. They were attractive people, who knew how to dress with style and taste, were fluent in French, English and German, drove a white Studebaker convertible, the only car even remotely like it in Hungary (the authorities would seize it, paint it black, and use it as a state car after their arrest). Furthermore, they were prominent; they had good jobs, he working for Associated Press (AP); she for United Press International (UPI), its chief competitor. The Hungarians were also anti-Semitic, whether they admitted it or not, and the Martons were Jews: the writer's maternal grandparents died at Auschwitz. Finally, unfortunately, the author's parents were also arrogant; they considered themselves untouchable, due to their wealth, charm and connections; he, at least, got a little reckless.

The apparatchiks had been watching the pair a long time; finally Endre (Andrew) Marton gave them the excuse they'd been hoping for, and the Secret Police pounced, charged the pair with spying, leaving their two little girls crying alone in the street. The girls were eventually fostered out (the government had been intending to seize and institutionalize them, at one of their propaganda mills/orphanages). However, family connections were able to find and pay a foster family; these same connections were finally able to effect the freeing of the pair, and the family's departure from Hungary, to the greener, safer shores of suburban Washington, D.C. There Andrew Marton achieved the exalted status of AP's Chief State Department Correspondent. And the Hungarian Communist government continued to pursue the pair, hoping, unrealistically enough, to turn them into pro-Hungarian spies.

It's an absorbing, thrilling true story, played on a world-wide stage, among people it's easy to like; yet it's an important first-person historical document, written by an eyewitness: the Marton family continues its record of high achievement. Well, I am told that, years ago, a sign hung in the commissary of that Hollywood dream factory, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM): "It isn't enough to be Hungarian. You must also work." The Martons, it appears, like many others of those legions of talented Hungarian Jews who came over here, nine of which Marton wrote about in her previous book, did, and do.

Funny, willy-nilly, I am what's known around New York and environs as a red diaper baby, the daughter of Reds with more naïve aspirations than sense, and, if nothing else, was raised in a politically-aware household. Even as a small child, I was aware of World War II, and the post-war Russian invasion and occupation of the East European countries. The 1953 death of that feared, crazed Russian tyrant, Josef Stalin, and his 1956 secret denunciation by Khrushchev, to the Russian Politburo. The 1956 Hungarian uprising and its crushing by Russian tanks. Reading Marton's account of these familiar events of our childhoods is like seeing them turned inside out, viewed from the opposite way they were viewed in the house where I grew up: I must say Marton's point of view makes more sense to me than my parents' ever did. Though my father, who was, after all, no fool, used always to tell me the Hungarians were remarkable people among East Europeans, the smartest, the best cooks; the women the most beautiful, the best-dressed, and the cleverest at utilizing some herb they'd found in the woods to beautify their skins (see Helena Rubinstein!). Seems to me that Marton's outstanding book goes to prove virtually every word.
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on November 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Part memoir, part historical narrative, Kati Marton spins a fantastic tale of her family's courageous journey to America.

Her parents were international journalists in Budapest behind the Iron Curtain after WWII. Their reporting eventually led to them being imprisoned when Marton was a young girl. The author doesn't just relate her memories of the time, which are sometimes flawed because she was so young, she digs deeper. After her parents died several years ago, Marton began searching, obsessively as she states,for what really happened during those years. What she discovers is beyond anything imaginable. The result is a narrative filled in with historical documents, redacted goverment security files, FBI files, secret papers from Budapest and eye witness accounts of the nightmare the Martons endured. It gives readers an up close and personal glimpse of what those behind the Iron Curtain faced.

The author does a remarkable job of mixing personal observations, emotions and history. We know what she is going through as she is uncovering the hidden truths, and we know what she felt as a child when her parents just "disappeared" from her life for months. It is well balanced, thoughtful, and informative, but most of all, it is a story of a family's strength of heart that helped them survive and led them to freedom.
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VINE VOICEon October 31, 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is the fascinating story of a famous Hungarian couple who were caught up in the politics of terror and paranoia that were the reality of Communist Hungary from just after World War II until the family was finally able to leave the country in 1957.

Endre and Ilona Marton (who were already survivors of World War II, especially remarkable because of their Jewish ancestry - one set of parents perished in Auschwitz) worked as journalists for the Associated Press and United Press (respectively) during the early critical days of the Cold War and were often the only line of information for "the West" present in the country. They lived in open defiance of the Soviet system and this is a detailed account of their story - based on the massive files collected by the Hungarian secret police and made available to their daughter, now a journalist herself and the author of this book. They were renowned for their excellent and honest journalism during very tough times and had much interaction with Western journalists and embassy staff - both of which brought them under intense scrutiny from the Hungarian secret police and eventually led to their arrest - leaving their children in the care of strangers for a considerable length of time.

It's really interesting to have this story told by this couple's daughter, whose own memories enhance the narrative. I'm amazed at her objectivity during the bulk of the story - the story of her family's life in Hungary. Learning the story of her parents and their journalistic integrity helps make sense of her amazing ability to not let her own feelings and biases get in the way of this important story. She skillfully weaves together a narrative based on the secret police files, her parents' own memoirs, extensive interviews with others wrapped up in the story and, of course, her own memories. The story is gripping and moving and culminates in her parents' eyewitness view of the tragic Hungarian revolution of 1956. This is a significant piece of history and a great read in its own right.

The end chapters, telling of her family's life after moving to America and her own work in putting together the story, are interesting, but don't match the quality of the rest of her book. These chapters are less objective and at times quite frustratingly emotional - both in trying to justify her parents' behavior (their humanness needs no excuse - her writing on them is perhaps better than she realizes!) and in making judgments about those, especially during their time in America, who were suspicious of them (the simpler descriptions of their thoughts and actions are more powerful when the readers are free to draw their own conclusions).

On the whole, a very powerful and worthwhile read!
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on November 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Kati Marton's "Enemies of the People" will interest those who are Iron Curtain buffs, those of Hungarian descent or anyone that enjoys reading about tragedy and eventual triumph. However, it won't interest a huge swath of any one group and that is because it deals with difficult subjects that happened in an era most have forgotten.

The book centers around her parents, both correspondents working for the AP and UPI behind the Hungarian Iron Curtain during the late 40s until mid-to-late 50s. Both were watched intensely by the secret police and, while allowed to live a certain life of luxury compared to average citizens of the time, both were eventually imprisoned and later released. The entire family came to the U.S. and started over once they escaped Hungary with the help of American friends.

Marton dwells on the rough years after the war, her slow realization of her family being watched by the AVI and the events that surrounded her parents arrest for most of the book, using a "look back" technique aided by papers she was given access to by both governments. One-on-one interviews and a revisit to her homeland help round out the story toward the end. As any offspring might do, she writes about her parents with a questioning viewpoint and allows us into their private family matters with a journalist's approach and a documentary style. It may seem cold to some, but when dealing with what could be seen as highly emotional events, she stays calm and almost detached. And this feels correct given the circumstances and the horrible realities she was dealt as a child. It could have easily slipped into self-pitying, psychological blather, and this reader is appreciative that she chose the cleaner path as it kept my interest going.

The book moves quite slowly, (thus the 3 stars) but this may be due to the overwhelming number of governmental and sociological facts, the country where it took place and the world-changing events that were happening at the time. It would be a difficult task for any writer to write about a complex childhood (how many of us know someone who's parents were both glamorous war correspondents?) while weaving post-war spying, the Hungarian revolution and an escape to America into the mix without them becoming the overwhelming focus. For that alone, Marton should be applauded, but the load of factual information may probably weed out anyone who doesn't fit the categories above. It's difficult stuff to deal with in any venue and while Marton handles it well, the book may only appeal to a narrow taste-set.

A pleasant surprise was Marton's inclusion of interviews of key people at the end of the book, individuals who played a part in keeping an eye on her parents both in the U.S. and in Hungary. It reveals not only her need for finding answers long after her parents death, but a need for closure on what must have been a difficult and long chapter in her life. As readers, we are allowed to look into that life, get a dark glimpse and move into the bright future she eventually came to know as a celebrated journalist and writer.
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on November 24, 2009
I can't find a link to write directly to Kati Marton, so will post this here in hopes that this will reach her eventually, as well as add a brief paragraph about the book:

For Kati Marton re Enemies of the People:

Not long ago I saw the review of your book in the NYT Friday book review e-mail, and remembered a lecture your father gave in the late 1970s, when I was a student at Georgetown's Foreign Service School. (I did, by the way, get the book from the library and read it cover to cover!)

I don't remember much about the lecture, but I wanted you so much to know that your dad spoke about you with SUCH PRIDE! He was wearing a vest with his jacket, his hair was steely (salt and pepper) gray then... he walked back and forth on the stage of the lecture venue, and I remember him telling us about "Kati Marton" the journalist, his daughter, and how you had just begun working for ABC. He was clearly pleased as punch--you could almost see him swell with pride at how well you had done to be working there at such a young age.

I remember almost nothing else about the lecture, alas, but I do remember his pride in you, and thought you might like to hear it.

Congrats on a very well written biography/memoir--as the NYT reviewer said, it reads like a good spy thriller, but it is for real!

Cheers, Sarah

As for reviewing the book... it is a wonderful read even if you aren't particularly riveted by Cold War history. Kati's storytelling skills come into play, deftly weaving her child's memories and the facts she gathered using her reporter's skills. First person histories such as this are a future historian's dream resource, and I think they bring to life what would otherwise seem to be impersonal events; the reader moves from looking down on history from a bird's eye view to the perspective of a participant.

The book moves along quickly--some of the 3-star reviews have complained that the book is personal, or would not be of interest to those not interested in Hungary. Not so! These reviewers seem to have missed the point of the book: it is a personal exploration into a skilled reporter's childhood, her parents' careers, and post-WW2 Hungary. I found the book to be riveting, always wondering what would happen next (while knowing Marton would escape, since I'd heard him speak in college!). While I have no burning desire to read the history of Hungary, I did find this book a revealing and valuable view into a family, a time, and a place, and recommend it.
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VINE VOICEon November 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I was given the opportunity to review this book by Kati Marton, whose parents were reporters for the Associated Press during the 1950's in Communist Hungary.

I found this rather short book (under 300 pages) to be a very interesting story about the child of parents who were indeed branded 'enemies of the people' by the Communist Hungarian government for their supposed collaboration as spies with the Western media following WWII - more because her parents reported on the Communist regime. Sometimes the truth is too horrible to make public.

Marton is a very good writer in that the book really held my attention for its length in a description of how she (Marton) reacted to having her parents harassed, then arrested by the authorities. The book arose out of her opportunity to see the files that the Hungarian government had accumulated on her parents during this period. She relates how she is told more than once not to travel too deeply because she may not like what she finds in the files. I will leave it for the reader to find whether this was the true.

I found the descriptions of how people around her parents were informers for the government chilling and yet also humorous in the banality of how life was described as if exercise of freedom was a threat to the regime. Also, I liked how the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 played such an important part in their lives.

As you might guess, Marton's family eventually makes it to America.

In the spirit of the fall of Communism 20 years ago, this is a very good description of life in a Communist regime (even one as nominal as Hungary) and how even children were affected by the evils of the state that perpetrated such odious crimes. How sad it is to find out that Marton is worried about whether her parents became informers for the state - such concerns are not even fathomable for most Americans!

Marton's experience as a journalist shows through in her writing, as the story is written much like a piece of investigative journalism, except she is a major participant in the story.

In short, I found the book to be a compelling autobiography about a very dark time in Hungarian (and world) history. A good read. Kudos to Ms. Marton for writing the book. She clearly had an interesting (and in some ways a charmed) life.

I think I would like to read her father's book about his prison experiences as he sounds like a very courageous fellow.The Forbidden Sky: Inside the Hungarian Revolution
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on October 7, 2011
I have heard Ms. Marton interviewed a bout the book and her stroy sounded compelling. Alas,the book was mostly disappointing. I found it difficult to care about the subjects, Marton's parents. They did come across as exceptional people who through their charm, wits and some luck managed to save themselves from doom. But the largely chronicling of events did little to endear the characters. I kept lamenting that it was difficult for me to care what really happened to them. Their story was not unique in the Soviet controlled territories. What set the the Martons apart was their high visibility and the intervention of foreign people in high places.
I kept thinking of my daughter's grade school writing teacher who kept harping: "show don't tell" and wishing the author would have used some literary devise that enabled her to do just that.
I must agree with one of the reviewers who concluded that had Marton not been as well connected as she was, the book would have interested very few.
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VINE VOICEon November 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I found myself thrown into the Marton family while I was reading this book. I thought the book was a great read as well very interesting. I myself could not put the book down. I find that all the family went through was mind boggling for I could not begin to tell you what I would do. I have read The Great Escape as well and found that to be excellent as well. If you like Biographies like I do this will be one you will not be able to put down
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on December 6, 2013
A truly remarkable family story told by an excellent writer. The author was a small child when her parents - Hungarians nationals - were arrested and charged with espionage by the Hungarian Communist government. Her father and mother were, respectively, correspondents for the Associated Press (AP) and United Press Intl. (UPI) - the sole sources of information to the West from within Hungary after the Iron Curtain dropped. The truth about the charges against them, especially the manner in which information was gathered, and previously unknown aspects of their personal lives were revealed to their daughter when the files of the Hungarian Secret Police were finally declassified. Fortunately, the story ends well, but the experience was harrowing. First, read this and then read her latest book: "Paris - A Love Story" to grasp the breadth of events that the author has lived through.
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VINE VOICEon November 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Christmas morning 1956. I am ten years old. Having opened all of our Christmas gifts, we turn on the TV to see what is happening in the world. Black-and-white film shows us Hungarian refugees as they flee from the Soviets. It is too sad to watch on Christmas morning, so I go on about the Christmas of a Kansas girl far from political turmoil and family separation. But those pictures--and many others that year--have never left my mind. Thus, when I read *Enemies of the People* by Kati Marton, I knew I needed to learn more about the faces that had haunted me since December of '56.

Kati Marton, the younger daughter of Dr. Endre Marton (Ph.D.) and his wife Ilona, has written the story of her family in what might be called a microcosm of Post-World War II Europe. Hungarians Endre and Ilona Marton had served as correspondents for the Associated Press and United Press, respectively. Attracted by the freedom and plenty of England and the United States, the couple, of Jewish ancestry stood out in a country which had suffered through the pro-Nazi government of World War II and the Soviet hegemony after the war. Arrested and imprisoned as spies for the United States, both Dr. and Mrs. Marton experienced first-hand the consequences of being politically incorrect in a Hungary torn apart by fascist and communist dictatorships: Around the time of the Hungarian Revolution, the family left their country behind and managed to emigrate to the U. S. with the help of the Martons' American employers.

As an adult, Kati Marton returned to post-Soviet Hungary where she was provided with approximately 2,000 documents relating to her father and mother from the Hungarian Secret Police (AVO), documents which shed light on the Communists' surveillance, arrest, and imprisonment of her parents. Not everything the author learned from those documents made her happy, but from them emerged a picture of parents who were devoted to both freedom and family, surviving betrayal, isolation, and privation during the nightmarish twentieth-century Europe. Kati Marton, who in 1956 was my Hungarian counterpart--a young girl with loving parents and hope for the future--has taught me through this book how important it is for Americans to remain aware of the world's hot spots and ready to lend a hand.
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