The Story That Cannot Be Told by J. Kasper Kramer is set in 1989 Romania before the communist dictatorship lost power. Ileana (age 11) had always loved stories. She listened to them, collected them, and told them. Ileana even had a giant encasement of handwritten stories called the Great Tome.
The Story That Cannot Be Told appears to be historically accurate. Before December 1989, Romania was ruled by a dictatorship, so Ileana’s parents knew danger was never far. Ileana’s uncle published a poem criticizing the dictatorship, so her home was under surveillance: an electrician put microphones in the house so communist agents could hear everything that was said. Ileana’s parents sent her to Mamaie (grandmother) and Tataie’s (grandfather) village in the mountains, but not before burning the Great Tome.
The Communist Party wanted the land of Ileana’s village for resources, so they sent the army to destroy the houses. The soldiers had orders to demolish the buildings, disregarding whether the people were in the homes, or had vacated past a certain date. To try and save them, Ileana decided to tell the soldiers the story of a legendary mountain village protector, which becomes The Story That Cannot Be Told. You will have to read the book to find out how the soldiers reacted to the legend of the ancient protector.
Inside the novel, the folktale “Cunning Ileana and the Three Princes” is intertwined in the plot. Ileana was named after the main protagonist of this folktale, which is about a princess, her sisters, and three villainous princes. The folktale is recounted in parallel with the novel: when ‘novel Ileana’ faces a challenge, ‘folktale Ileana’ faces a challenge of a different variety. It is as if the name predestined Ileana to follow a similar path as her namesake.
Kasper Kramer is an exceptional author, and the way she wrote this novel is engaging. This is her first book, which makes her phenomenal talent even more impressive. However, she failed to include physical character descriptions, which I think would improve the book. The entire time I read this novel, I was looking forward to the excerpts of “Cunning Ileana,” and to Ileana’s connection to them.
I would rate this book 9/10 because it was interesting, suspenseful, and engaging. I would recommend this book for ages 8+ because it is easy to understand and the book is a good piece of literature.