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Skvorecky, Josef.

Markham (Ont.), Penguin, c1972, 1985. 415pp, paper, $7.95, ISBN 0-14-00-7668-9, (King Penguin).

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Frank Loreto

Volume 14 Number 3
1986 May

Adolescence is a difficult time for most people, and for Danny Smiricky, the main character of The Cowards, his coming of age happens at a dangerous time. The Cowards takes place during a week in May 1945, in a small town in Czechoslovakia, just as the Germans are being replaced by the Russians. While there is a great deal of activity, confusion, and talk about an impending liberation, Danny is much more concerned about his love for Dagmar Dreslerova. Most of what he does, including his enlistment in the local army, his desire for a submarine gun, and his hunger for battle, is motivated by his plan to win Dagmar's heart. Unfortunately, she is with another, and Danny is knowingly performing in vain.

Skvorecky is telling a number of stories in The Cowards. With Danny as narrator, the reader is given a view of a liberated people. As one almost removed from the action, Danny shows both their great joy and the atrocities they perform on the conquered soldiers. Danny's confusion and disillusionment is shared by most of his friends and the end of the war only serves to distract them from their problems. Danny, as a jazz musician, also represents the new age and he lashes out at the conventions that restrict and condemn his method of expression.

While The Cowards is a worthwhile novel, it reads a little slowly and for this reason would probably not be enjoyed by a non-academic or lower-grade student. It could prove worthwhile to adults who have forgotten how confused a time adolescence can be.

Frank Loreto, Rainy River H.S., Rainy River, Ont.
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