George Bernard Shaw quipped that if you can’t hide the family skeleton, you might as well make it dance. The bones in Andrew Tarnowski’s closet may not have been about to burst out, but he’s made them dance anyway. The results have proved bittersweet. The critics were hooked, but Tarnowski’s relatives have thrown him out of the family association. The Last Mazurka provides a vivid portrait of the collapse of Old Poland, peppered with all the kinds of anecdotes that you wouldn’t tell casual friends (let alone strangers). The action kicks off in Krakow, where the author’s great-grandfather was Rector Magnificus of the university and all round big cheese. But it’s with the outbreak of war that the story really gets into gear. Tarnowski’s father was a patriot who fought determinedly against the Nazis. But the author isn?t interested in a rose-tinted memoir. Family feuds, infidelities and humiliations are all described in matter-of-fact style. It’s a racy mix. The author, now 68, was largely brought up in England and he continues to live abroad, meaning that he won’t have to see his siblings on a regular basis. Luckily for him, one imagines, as they might feel tempted to do more than remonstrate him for breaking the old code of solidarity. That said, for the impartial reader, Tarnowski’s frank approach makes for a revelatory read. A genuine eye-opener.
Available in paperback by Aurum Press