Rating: 4 / 5
Tom Weidlinger’s The Restless Hungarian is at once a historical biography of the immensely interesting and world-renowned architect/engineer, Paul Weidlinger, and a personal exploration of the author’s family heritage and his father’s well-kept secrets.
A huge thanks to Booksparks for the advanced copy in exchange for my honest review!
Paul Weidlinger was born in early 20th century Hungary to a moderately well to-do Jewish family. In his early years, he was a communist sympathizer arrested and banned from returning to his home country for work. Thus, he bounced around Europe, eventually meeting his future wife, Madeleine, and through a stroke of luck, was brought into a world-renowned circle of architects and engineers.
While Europe was on the brink of World War II, Paul and Madeleine escaped to South America, where Paul made a name for himself in the world of architectural engineering. They had a daughter, Michele, and then moved to America, where many years later they had Tom – the author of this biography.
Tom’s motivates for writing a biography of this father were twofold. First, to tell the world about the fascinating, lucky, and ingenious stories and accomplishments of his father’s life. And second – almost as a bonus -, to learn about and try to connect with his father from beyond the grave. Tom knew little about his father and their family, including their Jewish heritage. The Restless Hungarian is both a captivating historical biography and a deeply personal exploration into one’s family history.
Please take caution while reading The Restless Hungarian if any of the following topics may trigger you:
- Death or dying
- Mental illness
The Restless Hungarian is an engaging and well-written account of a fascinating man’s life and family. Paul Weidlinger’s life was exceptional; he took risks that almost always panned out for him and was always in the right place at the right time. He was an extremely talented architectural engineer who, against many odds, was able to make a world-renowned name for himself. It was an absolute delight learning about the life of someone I never would have encountered otherwise.
My favorite thing about this book, besides how interesting it was and how many note-worthy time frames it spanned through – including World War II and the Cold War – is the element of extreme vulnerability that the author injects into the history. Tom is learning about his father’s life alongside us, and he doesn’t hold back in describing how his newfound understanding of his family history affects him.
Tom’s life – and Paul and Michelle’s effects on his life – are plentiful throughout the biography. He discusses hardships that befell Paul’s family in Hungary just as freely as the hardships that have befallen his family in America. Their relationship was deeply flawed, but Tom is able to get a semblance of understanding and comfort through this thorough exploration into his father’s life.
The Restless Hungarian is such a unique nonfiction book. I would describe it ultimately as a biography, but with many aspects of a memoir peppered in throughout. If you’re interested in European history and the Cold War, or anything to do with architecture or engineering, I highly recommend this to you.
Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts on The Restless Hungarian. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the book in the comments or at my Instagram, @bookmarkedbya!