Thursday, 27 March 2014


Spring Flowers, Spring Frost


Ismail Kadare

ISBN: 9781446419588

The story is set away from the main cities, in a town that is portrayed as a little behind in its attitude, as many country regions around the world are. In this small town, we meet Mark, an artist, who is trying to get to grips with many things in his life. He has a girlfriend who keeps disappearing to the capital for days on end. She seems to be embracing the westernised way of life a little ahead of Mark. Then there is the bank robbery in the town, another legacy of the change from the old style of rule?  
There is a rumour that the old style of law, ancient in its origin, is being reintroduced – blood for blood – with extended family members living in the fear of reprisals for harm you caused; kill a man and your whole family is in jeopardy.  Is there any truth in these rumours? They certainly carry more weight when the boss at the office where Mark works is mysteriously and brutally murdered. Mark finds a way to integrate into the areas where he might find out if this national state secret law is about to explode throughout the country.
And then we move to the ‘counter chapters’. Interwoven with this story is a fable of a woman who is married off by her family, to a snake. The initial introduction is a little off putting, but I found that the fable held as much interest as the modern story. It is quite difficult here to tell any more of the fable without giving away the full story of the whole book, but perhaps suffice to say that there is a point to it.

So what we really have is a book that is exploring the political history, the current ideology and the future fears for Albania. Should the country embrace the future Western attitudes? After all, there are now bank robberies, something that certainly wouldn’t have happened under the old rule.  Should the country have stayed with the old rule, it protected the citizens from the ancient rule of an eye for an eye?  It is written in crisp, tight fashion, and is a story that you can’t really fall asleep with, half way down the page. Certainly save this one for when the concentration levels are good. That is not to say it’s a difficult book to read, far from it. I found it enjoyable to read, thought provoking and left me wanting to know more; about the country, their politics and the author of this relatively short novel.


  1. Novels can give an insight into how politics and history can affect everyday life for individuals in a way no other media can. Bet you'd be in demand as a lecturer on this subject- perhaps you should keep some of your insights for paid employment!

  2. At the very least, it would be a star turn at a literary festival