Review: Lola Lafon – The Little Communist Who Never Smiled

The Little Communist Who Never Smiled
Lola Lafon

A merging of fiction and non-fiction to fill in the gaps, this novel follows the early life and career of Nadia Comaneci, a pioneering Romanian gymnast who broke the scoring system by receiving the first 10 in the history of gymnastics.

9781781255148The first half of the novel kept me enthralled, but this petered out in the second half. I was fascinated by the gymnastics, not by the politics. In the end, I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to take away from the novel. Translated from French, I think this novel may have lost some of its charm.

At times I felt like the narrator and Nadia spent too much time fighting – and I was really confused about the intersection of the conversations they had. Were these actual conversations the author had with Nadia? Or something else? Nadia has also written an autobiography which I think could also be interesting.

Off the back of this novel, I watched Nadia’s performance at Montreal on Youtube. It is amazing the things they used to do on bars (they weren’t separated as they are now). My breath stopped every time it looked like she was going to fall. What many of the commenters on these videos were saying were that the tricks back then were easier than they are now. Having read this novel, I can confirm that is not the case. Many of the moves have changed, due to changing equipment or banning of particularly dangerous moves.

I’ll give this novel 3 stars – 4 stars for the first half, and 2 stars for the second half!


Allen & Unwin | 27th July 2016 | AU $27.99 | Paperback

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