I just finished reading The Romanian, after a 4-day marathon of more or less non-stop reading. It is going to remain on my desk for a while, as I intend to re-read and re-savor it.
In addition to the vibrant telling and the always lush use of language, what's most impressive about The Romanian is Benderson's fluid and seemingly effortless fusion/synthesizing of the three major narratives that run through the book: Benderson's relationship with Romulus (in Romania and Hungary), with his ailing, 93-year-old mother in NY - who is as feisty and explosive as her son - and, as a background to these, the hovering majestic figure of King Carol and his relationship with his mother and his Jewish mistress; luscious descriptions of the Romanian capital and countryside are the bonus here.
Benderson is an exciting and passionate author, and his excitement and passion inevitably become the excitement and passion of the reader - at least this reader. The French have given Benderson one of their most prestigious literary awards - the Prix de Flore (Benderson is the first American to win it). Hopefully, the American literary establishment will soon follow suit.