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Inspired by Recent European History - an Editorial Review of "Perestroika"

Book Blurb:

Perestroika overthrows communist regimes in Europe.

In the People's Republic of Slavia the former leaders are trying to survive the new times, while their victims seek revenge.

Former President Alfred Ionescu is placed in an asylum he himself built.

Zut Zdanov, the head of culture, is confronted with his child abuse.

Helena Yava, responsible for education, wants to avenge her lover's death.

Igor Olin, responsible for the economy, fights for his disabled son to have a dignified life.

Art historian Silvia Lenka wants to know who her parents are.

Lia Kirchner, the daughter of a painter who died in a re-education camp, wants to know the truth.

Having as a binding element Pilate's question to Jesus “what is truth?”, Perestroika is a novel of revenge, redemption and catharsis inspired by recent European history.

Finalist in the 2021 Eyland Awards.

Finalist in the Fiction Factory 2021

Bronze Medal in the 2023 Latino Book Awards

Excerpt nominated for the Pushcart Prize 2023.

Author Bio:

João Cerqueira was born and lives in Viana do Castelo, Portugal.

He holds a PhD in Art History from the University of Porto.

He is the author of nine books and is published in eight countries: Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, England, United States, Brazil, Argentina.

He won the 2020 Indie Reader Awards, the 2014 Global ebook Awards and the 2013 USA Best Book Awards.

The short storie A house in Europe won the 2015 Speakando European Literary Contest, received the bronze medal in the Ebook Me Up Short Story Competition 2015 and an honorable mention in the Glimmer Train July 2015 Very Short Fiction Award.

The short storie The dictator and poetry was published in the 2016 Bombay Review Anthology.

His works are published in The Adirondack Review, Ragazine, Berfrois, Cleaver Magazine, Bright Lights Film, Modern Times Magazine, Toad Suck Review, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Hypertext Magazine, Danse Macabre, Rapid River Magazine, Contemporary Literary Review India, Open Pen Magazine, Queen Mob’s Tea House, The Liberator Magazine, Near to the Nuckle, Narrator International, The Transnational.

Editorial Review:

"Perestroika" unfolds in an oppressive setting in Slavia, illustrating the diversity of characters

ensnared in President Alfred Ionescu's web of authority. The narrative explores the lives of

key figures, such as Ludwig Kirchner, the silent dissident artist, and Solidarity leader Adam

Jacek, providing a vibrant depiction of a society stifled by censorship and fear.

Kirchner's arrest, whose artistic spirit clashes with President Ionescu's sanctioned official

portrait, sets the tone for the suppression of creativity. The regime's manipulation,

exemplified by the cunning tactics of Commissioner Zut Zdanhov, adds intriguing layers of


As the plot unfolds, tension rises, starting with the bold escape attempt of Solidarity

members Rufus and Zacko. The harsh consequences they face underscore the cruelty of

the regime. Questions about survival, loyalty, and the price of resistance add depth to the

narrative: „Will those two escape alone, or will others take the chance to join them? What

will they do once they’re out? Will anyone be waiting to help them? Will they try to get out of

the country or go into hiding? And what if they’re caught? Will they be killed? It’s too risky for

you to join the fugitives.”

The author skillfully intertwines personal struggles with the broader political landscape,

creating a compelling story of resistance in the face of oppression. "Perestroika" promises

an engaging exploration of power dynamics, dissent, and the human spirit in a society

grappling with its tumultuous past.

On the one hand, there's Silvia, with a deep education and a commitment as a New Woman,

who finds herself in internal conflict between her socialist beliefs and the discovery of an

imperfect world. She knows people who have disappeared and has seen men shrouded in

the darkness of reeducation. Despite these dark aspects of society, Silvia remains deeply

attached to socialist causes and dreams of building a better future for all. However, when

faced with the dilemma of reporting someone to the police, Silvia fears for Leonidas, the only

person she has ever loved. Despite her devotion to the Party, Silvia begins to question its

methods and justice. The tense dialogue with Leonidas reveals Silvia's profound conflict

between loyalty to the socialist system and doubt about the Party's authoritarian methods.

The book continues to highlight the conflicts and dilemmas of Ruth Meyer in her clandestine

relationship with Helena Yava and her new position as the Director of the Boys' Orphanage

in Tiers.

In this forbidden love story, Ruth faces social pressures and ethical dilemmas. Previously

married to a military officer to meet family, societal, and Party expectations, Ruth discovers

her true happiness in her work as a teacher. However, the clandestine relationship with

Helena Yava puts her in a delicate position, and Helena, as the People's Commissar for

Education, has her own ambitions and conflicts related to this relationship.

Nominated for the position of Director of the Boys' Orphanage in Tiers through Helena's

influence, Ruth discovers the horrors and shortcomings of the institution. The old building,

poor living conditions, and inhumane treatment of the children add a tragic dimension to the

story. Additionally, the appearance of a Party official wanting to take two boys for a weekend

in a villa raises questions about his motivations and the consequences of his actions. In a

society where norms are dictated by the Party, Ruth's dilemma in this situation highlights the

moral and ethical conflicts faced in the attempt to create the "New Man". As Ruth faces fears

and uncertainties, and Helena tries to offer support.

The book continues, further exploring the evolution of the character Albert Remus and the

tensions created in the artistic world under Zdanhov's leadership. Albert Remus, a Party

member and privileged playwright, faces substantial changes in his artistic creation under

the influence of the new directions imposed by Zdanhov. If before the revolution Remus

addressed complex topics such as love, betrayal, and revenge, he is now constrained to

bring more realistic complexity to his characters, eliminating the exaggerated image of the

perfect hero.

Zdanhov suggests to Remus that their literary works must transcend propaganda and

endure over time as valuable works. This implies a change in direction for Remus, who must

return to his previous approach characterized by doubt, hesitation, and moral ambiguity.

Despite his inner struggles and confrontations with authorities, Remus becomes a symbol of

artistic resistance and perseverance in the face of oppression. In this context, the book

emphasizes the author's ability to explore character evolution in the context of social and

political changes.

Igor Olin is the next character we discover, a complex character who brings notable depth to

the story. Initially framed as an artist aware of the desire to rise above the limitations of

oppression, Olin is captivating in his process of navigating the complex artistic and political

world. Olin experiences significant changes in his attitude toward the Party and the regime

as he explores his own artistic voice. He grapples with different emotions, emotions that

occur when he looks at his son, Aliocha, who suffers from cerebral palsy. Trying to find a

balance between authentic artistic expression and the demands imposed by authorities adds

tension and ambiguity to the narrative.

The author highlights the growing tragedy with the death of Ludwig Kirchner and the

dramatic events that follow. Kirchner's disappearance, as well as the way it is handled by

authorities, adds a layer of intensity and emotional impact. At the same time, the reactions of

other artists and dissidents to this loss highlight solidarity and resistance in the face of

adversity. Kirchner's death marks a turning point in the story and acts as a catalyst for

subsequent events. The intensification of the struggle against the regime, as well as the

shocking revelations that emerge, add complexity and nuance to the intrigue.

Events such as the tragedy at the fertilizer factory, the revelation of Ruth Meyer's death, and

the confrontation between Jacob Levi and Zut Zdanhov bring a new wave of dramatic twists

and surprising revelations. In the context of these events, the story delves deeper into

mystery and conspiracy, providing readers with strong reasons to explore the next pages. In

this context, the book continues to emphasize the author's skills in masterfully managing

multiple narrative threads and maintaining a captivating pace. The complex plot, intertwined

with personal dramas and ethical dilemmas, offers a rich and substantive reading


Lia, the daughter of Kirchner and the central character in the novel „Perestroika” brings a

unique and captivating dimension to the story. Despite the oppressive atmosphere and

dramatic changes in the totalitarian society, Lia maintains a fearless spirit and unwavering

determination. As a talented artist, Lia faces pressures and threats from the regime but

refuses to compromise her creative vision and integrity. The offer of exile opens up a horizon

of freedom for her, but the dilemma between personal salvation and staying in the fight for

change adds complexity to her character. Through Lia's evolution, the author explores not

only political and social aspects but also the depth of the human spirit in the face of


It was one o’clock in the morning, and Lia could not sleep. She put her hand on her belly and

felt the baby kicking. She smiled. It was not the discomforts of pregnancy that kept her

awake. The exile in Paris had turned out more complicated than she supposed. [...] One part

would be real, another part she would have to invent, but was not that how History had been

written throughout the centuries? What is truth? Pilate had asked Jesus. The truth was what

the majority decided it would be at any particular moment. Pilate had found Jesus innocent,

but the crowd considered him guilty. That was the truth on which Christianity had been

founded. Now it was her turn to play Pilate, and in contrast to him, she had decided that

Ionescu’s regime was guilty. [...] To perfect the justice of the Old Testament was the

solution. Forgiveness had a price for the executioner: some demanded one of his eyes,

others a tooth; I will be satisfied with writing the truth.”

"Perestroika" stands out through the author's ability to create complex characters and

explore the subtleties of a changing society. It is a captivating journey into recent history,

blending political, social, and personal aspects into a fascinating tableau of the struggle for

freedom and truth. The author provides a profound insight into the souls of the characters,

and readers are captivated by their evolution in the face of the challenges of oppression.

"Perestroika" not only delights with a well-crafted story but also prompts reflection on the

human condition in the face of the pressures of tumultuous history


“Perestroika” by Joao Cerquira receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company



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