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Excellent… 17 January 2015

I really enjoyed this book. It is a triumph not least because it is extraordinary. The diverse stories of the people from many parts of the world who have chosen to make a life in Romania are engaging and through them we discover this fascinating country, its people and their culture. Nigel Shakespear asks really good questions and as a result what comes across is a very holistic,vital, multi-faceted and many-toned perspective. I had a very limited knowledge of Romania but I learned a lot; the insights are broad and profound. I took an enjoyably long time to read it because there is so much to digest and I found I wanted to read many of the "stories" again. Thoroughly recommended.

From LAM (London UK) on Amazon

An excellent and essential read…   15 January 2015

Disclaimer: Nigel Shakespear has been my friend for several years and his interview with me appears in this book. Subjectivity aside, I find 'Times New Romanian' an intriguing read that should appeal to anyone interested in Romania. No matter how much one might have experienced in this fascinating country, Nigel's collection of lively interviews brings fresh insight with every page. I must admit, at first, I found some of the verbatim transcriptions a little awkward on the eye, but that is a minor quibble since 'conversation' is key to the project. The range and depth of these chats is impressive, as is the fatalistic and good-humoured determination of the interviewees. So much of Romania is here - the people and the passions, the problems and the potential. It is a great book, one to dip into again and again, and thus perfect for bedside or coffee table. Even better, pack it for your trip to this wondrous land in the heart of Europe! Nigel has done very well to collate our dreams and dilemmas. It's a labour of love, and we know why.

From Michael Ormsby on Amazon (Kindle edition)

Romania demystified… 27 July 2014

Fascinating insights into a country often dismissed with banal clichés are provided in Times New Romanian. Long a byword for oppression and backwardness, Romania has been witnessing a tussle between an old order with roots in the communist era and modernising forces who believe that a new Romania is capable of taking its place in Europe.

This book examines the struggle to define the Romanian future through the eyes of foreigners who have made their lives there in the past twenty years. Musicologists, educators, hoteliers, capacity builders, a failed businessman, architects, a restaurateur, writers, and home-makers are among those who relate their experiences of an intriguingly multi-layered society. Sharply-etched accounts of Romanian society emerge from these pages that it will be hard to find in academic studies of the country whatever their other merits.

Romanian thought processes, the role of the family, attitudes to political authority gender, religion, nationalism, and the law are discussed, sometimes in contrasting ways. The failings and virtues of Romanians, ways in which some are201 changing and many are remaining the same, are put under the microscope. Few of the 40 accounts of life among the Romanians are superficial and one re-read several because of the vivid stories they told, especially about the rural world which most Romanians are still closely linked to. This unusual book, edited with care and precision by Nigel Shakespear, deserves to be an essential manual for understanding important aspects of life in one of Europe’s most fascinating countries.

  


From Tom Gallagher, Emeritus Professor of Politics, Bradford University and author of ‘Romania and the European Union’ 2010

An exceptionally good book about the real Romania… 7 June 2014

For the British media, Romania still seems to be all about orphans, stray dogs and gypsies. I've been three times as a tourist and find it a beautiful and fascinating place, inhabited by friendly people, but of course as a tourist I know little more than the sad press clichés. It's all the more valuable then, to find a book containing the experiences of a wide range of foreigners - British, Dutch, Italians, Americans and others - who have lived and worked in Romania since the fall of Communism, often for many years during which time they have acquired a Romanian family. Nigel Shakespear has done a first-rate job in gathering together these accounts, which are extremely varied - everything from entrepreneurs to town planners and aid workers - and without exception very interesting and instructive. We learn about Romania warts and all - the spaga (bribes) often necessary to get anything done, the unwillingness of Romanians to accept responsibility (a hangover from Communist days), but at the same of peoples' friendliness and something about the place that makes this varied cast of foreigners fall in love with the country and a people that feel themselves culturally a part of the wider Europe and want to catch up after all those wasted Communist years. This is an exceptionally good book, for which Nigel Shakespear must take much of the credit in his choice of contributors: no-one should even contemplate doing business in Romania without reading it, and anyone visiting the country wanting to know more about it should pack a copy along with their guidebook of choice.

Brian J. Cox reviewed Times New Romanian

Times New Romanian by Nigel Shakespear… 1 July 2014

I very much enjoyed reading this book. I tend to read a lot more fiction than non-fiction these days, so it made a pleasant change for me.

I liked the format of the book, which consisted of many, short, real life stories from people that had moved into Romania, or worked there, generally as foreigners. This made it easy to read in a bitwise fashion. I don’t think I quite realised the extent of the cultural diversity of the country before. It was a great insight into life as a foreigner in a fascinating and exciting country.

Each story had a different viewpoint based upon where the person had originated from, how they had first visited the country, their motivations for being there, and ultimately what kept them there. For some they now viewed Romania as their home, whilst for others it was home for now, but their real home was elsewhere. Some of those spoken to divided their time between living in Romania, and living in another country.

I found it fascinating to hear about the multitude of different ways that these people approached life in Romania. For some it was just somewhere that they worked, either for themselves, for large multinationals, or as volunteer workers, for others it was because they had a Romanian partner.

It was interesting to see how people’s lives had changed and developed during the course of their time there, and as a result of the people that they met and their experiences.

I would recommend this to anyone wanting to gain a greater insight into life in Romania as a foreigner, or indeed just interested in learning more about the country. This was a most interesting read.

This review is based on a complimentary copy.


Julian Froment reviewed Times New Romanian: Voices and Narrative from Romania

Something Special in Travel Writing… June 27, 2014

Readers wishing to know more about a 'new' travel destination or about contemporary life in Central Europe will enjoy Nigel Shakespeare's look at Romania after Communism. The book will also be a fascinating account of living in the country as an expatriate and it will appeal those of us 'armchair' expats who enjoy imagining what it might be like to 'pick up and move' to a different culture and a different environment. As with everyone interviewed for this is project, the author/editor has spent significant time living and working in the country and they seem to have a sound basis for offering their information and points of view. The information here was gathered between November, 2011 and October, 2012 so things are well up-to-date.

I was not aware that Romania was such a multi-ethnic country: a major cleavage seems to be between Hungarians and Romanians and there also are Saxons and the Roma (Gypsy) population. Relations between these groups are discussed to a useful degree. Another theme of the interviews is the contemporary redevelopment and economic development of the nation. After Romania joined the EU, a good many projects were funded and they brought many of the persons interviewed to the country. Many of these people have been or are involved in tourism related activities and they suggest the range of activities that draw visitors and the types of accommodations one might expect.

Beyond this, the book is like attending a cosmopolitan dinner party with people who discuss subjects like business development, local culture and daily living, Romanian attitudes to family and gender roles, government and bureaucracy and even the fine arts. I found it to be a welcome change from itinerary-focused travel writing of the experiences of a single traveller.

James Ellsworth This review is from: Times New Romanian (Paperback)

Another review by James Ellsworth – from NetGalley

Nigel Shakespear offers something special to readers of travel literature with his approach to cultural and intellectual travel to contemporary Romania. One result of his interview format is readers have the sense of attending a dinner party with expats from many countries, each of whom shares their experience of working in the country, living with its people and even starting business. A good many of these businesses prove to be travel-related so readers come away with a good idea of the range of attractive options Romania has to offer for accommodations (e.g., hotels, apartments, country inns) and for activities (e.g., hiking, biking, trail rides with guides.) Readers who enjoy vicarious participation in 'living' in an unfamiliar place or culture will also find plenty to interest them in these pages. I am well-described in all of the above categories.

Interviews were done over a one-year period, from November, 2011 to October, 2012, so information is current. It also summarizes what expats from countries like Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom--even Australia--found over a period of years of living in post-Communist Romania. There are a range of interesting stories: one businessman explains his work in restarting the premium wine industry in the country, historically, famous for the quality of its wines from antiquity to the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Other people speak about participating in national revival and in starting programs to aid primary and secondary education or socialization of the marginalized Roma (Gypsy) population. Relations between the various major ethnic groups and religions--Saxon, Hungarian, Romanian; Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim--are outlined. It seems significant that, unlike Yugoslavia or Albania, the Romanian peoples remain dedicated to living as one nation, albeit with cultural differences.

For most Americans, Central Europe is 'unknown territory'. Here is a well-selected; well-edited and readable source of fascinating information.

Not just for those who've been to Romania…  21 July 2014

Having had a short but very sweet visit to Romania a couple of years ago, I wanted to know more about the country, and found this to be a really excellent book. It is essentially a series of interviews with foreigners who were drawn to Romania for various different reasons, and have now come to call it their home. This myriad of voices creates a colourful patchwork of insights into and experiences in the country that would appear to be far more rounded than something that one travel writer alone could convey. And despite the struggles and stresses that many of the interviewees voice about Romania, I couldn’t help but finish the book with a sense that here is a hidden gem which seems to have a special pull on people who dare to go off the beaten path and visit this relatively unknown corner of Europe.

Even if you haven't been to Romania and hadn't thought about going, I would still recommend this. I found the human story aspect of the interviews to be incredibly engaging, and in some cases inspiring. A highlight for me is the interview with Paul Davies, a Welshman whose life was profoundly changed when he visited Romanian orphanages back in the 80s and now lives there permanently, running his own charity. That each interview is relatively short in length makes for a very readable book too, as I found that with 15 minutes spare here and there in the day, I could pick it and dip into another person's life quite easily.

I'd love to see more books like this. A very interesting and absorbing read.


From Booklover submitted on Amazon

From A.M. Bodman on Amazon… 19 July 2014

The news is often about Romanians leaving their country for a better life in other parts of Europe. Times Romanian is about foreigners who have settled in Romania. It is a tasty smorgasbord of interviews which tells what it is like to emigrate and settle in Romania. There are common themes of battling corruption and bureaucracy. Doctors are so badly paid that they expect to be given substantial tips by their patients.

As you might expect from an Eastern European country, family ties are very strong. However many of the people interviewed highlighted the kindness that Romanians show to foreigners.

The strength of this book is that it contains a broad spectrum of interviewees, from entrepreneurs through to a writer who started out in the proverbial garret in a run-down area of Budapest. Be warned though that the description of the beautiful Carpathian mountains will entice you to visit the country, or who knows settle there yourself.


From Peter Maxwell - NetGalley… 16 July 2014

An interesting book with pen pictures provided by immigrants living in Romania relating their experiences. Whilst it may particularly interest those studying contemporary Romania I found it part timely because of controversy in UK about the arrival of Romanian immigrants here and the prejudiced picture painted by parts of the media about their attitudes and habits etc. From this book you find Romanians are like us, creatures of thir past, history and culture. Not surprisingly there are sharp differences across the Country, from the Roma to Hungarians in Transylvania to those living in cities. You find strong families which you might be welcomed into. There is likely to be an initial reserve or suspicion of strangers (a consequence of Communism, secret police and informers?). Similarly democracy is still far from our western experience. Communist backgrounds remain strong in Government, bureaucracy and frequently associated bribery remains intact. Will it change? As ever the future depends on the young, new leadership and ideas.

The book portrays the present day and hopes for future well and optimistically. My only word of caution is to remember that the pen pictures are provided by some who themselves may have personal agendas which cloud their objectivity. If you have successfully started a new business your attitude maybe different from someone who has had a less fortunate experience.

Overall this is a good book which I have been happy to recommend to others. I hope many will read it in the UK to help with the understanding of where Romanians on our shores are coming from.


... In reverse - people going to Romania and starting new lives there… 31 July 2014

Oral history is an unusual genre but I was caught up in Times New Romanian from the very start. First and foremost it was the personal stories – stories of people whom chance, inspiration or a need for adventure brought to Romania. Such is their distinctiveness and variety, I often felt I was listening to voices rather than reading words.The human characters come through; they are all real, they are lively, and together they give you a totally authentic insight into Romania today.

I learnt a lot and I’ve been left with a picture of a country with an edge to it; not lacking in frustrations, but one you could engage with, learn from and contribute to. Yes, a country that would get under your skin and probably change you too, and certainly one that I would now like to visit.

  


From S.J.Holmes on Amazon

A realistic insight into the Romanian life… 31 July 2014

Nigel Shakespear is one of those who, although a foreigner in Romania, took an impartial stand for our country in his book: Times New Romanian. He put the mirror up to a country that was covered in the haze of communism and present rushed democracy. Moreover, the emigration of Romanians as well as of the Roma minority from our country led to undertones of hatred in Europe and made these times be hard times for us. As the book clearly and objectively presents it, reality in Romania is multi-faceted: sometimes grim, sometimes sublime, but always interesting. All the voices in this book converge and reflect the same reality: the Romanians are people, who although fatalistic in expression, prove to have preserved the old Dacian and Thracian features of courage and will for fighting to survive.

The narratives of foreigners living in and experiencing Romania are more reliable than any prejudicial stereotypes and confusions. As we “cannot judge a book by its cover” nobody can judge a country or a people based on only some negative facts seen from the outside. Consider this and take a glance into our world by reading Times New Romanian, whose title I may read: “Times New, Romanians!” as an encouragement for us that there will be better new times for us in the future.

From Alina Dinu on Amazon

This is a very interesting book. Firstly for the…     17 August 2014

This is a very interesting book. Firstly for the format – interview style – so the voices of the individuals, not all of whom are native speakers of English, come through clearly. The personalities themselves are interesting and sometimes distinctly odd, but they all are very genuine and have made a serious attempt in each case to understand this fascinating country. Secondly there is a range across the country. I chose to download this book in a hotel in Bucharest just before going on a hiking holiday from Brasov. It sustained and informed my trip.

From Ho on Amazon

Simple but brilliant about Romania…  25 October 2014

Nigel’s book has been built upon the simple but brilliant idea to reveal Romania through the mind of 40 foreigners coming from West European countries and also from US, Canada, Australia. There are people with many different backgrounds, artists, hippies, freelancers, workers, officials, or business people, either romantic or pragmatic, looking for adventure, retreat, romance, charity or business, who tell about their experience with living in Romania for several years or longer time. Nigel himself experienced life and work in Romania for some years, having an outstanding activity as consultant in social and education related projects. It is an astonishing collection of personal stories presenting Romania as they met through various activities, occupations, relationships, as well as in almost all regions from South to North. The narrative is simple, sincere, and it sounds so real that it almost can be visualized and heard.

The stories disclose myriads of pieces of reality either beautiful or ugly, about rural and urban, nature, community life, family, forests and Carpathians, dogs and bears, politics, fine arts, red tape, corruption, ethnic minorities, Saxon, Hungarian and Gipsy strong ethnic- minority cultures and the gaps between them and the majority one.

Foreigners’ eyes have captured so many features that one single Romanian wouldn’t ever have done. The complexity of our country’s present and past has become more obvious then ever: “go back in time”, “incredible vitality of the place is a bit of a secret”, “explosive Latin feature of people”, “Romania is not a one-culture country”, “the human element is so prevalent, it makes all tolerable”, just to quote some of the remarks.

Romania is my country, where I was born, grew up and educated. “New Times Romanian” portrays it as I have never represented for myself. Honestly! Impressions over me were revealing but contradictory, either edifying, illuminating or demolishing. Turning me surprised, excited, concerned or sorrowed, the reading was an amazing journey til the end, and a wonderful self-awareness process. It also released in me a pleasant feeling of sympathy and a justified proudness for our enduring existence.

The book is equally for foreigners who are curious to hear about deep Romania and for natives who want to better understand their country with its strengths and weaknesses.

From Adelina Baleanu on Amazon

From Margit Grobbel, InterNations review…  24 October 2014

Times New Romanian: Voices and Narrative from Romania is the title of a recent book edited and published by Nigel Shakespear, himself a British expat in Eastern Europe. He has lived in Romania for about ten years, working with a government organization to improve the living conditions of the Roma population.

Over and over again, he was asked the following question: “What do you, as a foreign resident, think of our country?” This book is an attempt to answer that question, or rather an attempt to provide a wide range of answers.

Times New Romanian is a collection of interviews with about 40 expatriates, who talk freely about their life in Romania and their impressions of the country. The editor has included a fairly diverse group of people to represent expat life in Romania. They come from Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Spain, the UK, and the US. Some of them actually have Romanian roots, returning to the country that their parents or grandparents left behind.

The interviewees also represent a variety of occupations, from the business man working in the finance sector over the farm manager to the owner of a small B&B. However, the creative types, such as writers, journalists, or filmmakers, as well as social workers or people affiliated with NPOs and NGOs, may be somewhat overrepresented here.

Still, the expats in question don’t live in Bucharest only. Instead, the editor has taken care to select interviewees who have settled in all parts of the country, from the capital to rural Transylvania, from the Bucovina to the Banat, and from the Carpathian Mountains to the Black Sea.

The short chapters with the individual conversations make for an easy read. Sometimes, the anecdotes or observations come across as slightly banal or somewhat random (though the excursions on, for example, water buffalo farms are still entertaining). More often than not, however, the expats provide some vivid quotes and insightful comments, e.g. on the slow emergence of a civic society in Romania’s public sphere.

At times, the interviewees clearly share their enthusiasm for pursuits like ethno-musicology and Romanian peasant traditions; in other instances, their stories are very personal and very moving. The account of a NGO worker from Wales who used to look after HIV-positive children in a hospice really stuck in my mind.

On the downside, the book is occasionally a little disjointed. The editor obviously wanted to let people talk for themselves, with candor and authenticity. But the natural flow of conversation can turn rambling, or start jumping from topic to topic.

Maybe it would have been better to group their observations and opinions according to the subject at hand, so you could easily compare what they think, for instance, about life in the countryside or family life in Romania.

Readers like me, who know little about Romanian history and culture, may also find themselves wishing for more context in some cases. For example, the interviewees talk repeatedly about the various demographic groups within Romania.

It would have been nice to get more background information about ethnic Romanians, Hungarian-Romanians, “Saxons” (Transylvanians of German descent), the Roma and Sinti communities, and their respective place in Romanian society.

Times New Romanian is neither a guidebook for travellers or expats-to-be, not is it a systematic overview of contemporary Romania. But I think if you are planning any sort of longer stay in Romania, it will serve as a useful complement to these kinds of books. It offers a good look at what you may expect, both positive and negative aspects.

The expats in this collection can be rather critical of Romania sometimes, but most have close ties to the country all the same: co-workers, good friends, partner, spouse, extended family. Some of them are probably going to settle down forever in their adopted home.

And despite their criticism, most clearly oppose the negative stereotype of Romania of some backwards, benighted place that is still trotted out in foreign media every now and then. There’s a deep conviction of an ongoing transformation in many conversations, a fascination with the country’s “amazing vitality”.

Margit Grobbel

A rewarding read… 10 December 2014

I read this book mostly during the evenings and always looked forward to finding out about new people and learning about their lives in Romania. I even made some notes of places to visit and people to see, perhaps one fine day - it's great that Nigel has added contact details for most of his respondents. I like his interviewing technique and the straightforward answers he received. The book really helps one to understand Romanians, Romania, and some of the ex-pats who have made our country their home.

From Angela (Queens, NY) on Amazon

From Sasha ‘dancing box’ on Amazon… 24 November 2014

This is quite a read. Not a book you wade through in a few hours but one to read over a period of time, considering each voice individually. Nigel has done an excellent job of editing his interviews with many different sorts of people from various countries and backgrounds. They are all interesting and together give us a very comprehensive picture of the Romanian character.

Sasha

A book like a mirror for Romanians and better than a tour guide for Westerner…
12 November 2014

I really enjoyed reading these 38 stories and find out the answer to the obsessive question we all at least once asked: "What do you think about Romania/Romanians?". And I was happy to see that, despite our low self-esteem and extreme self-criticism, foreigners do appreciate us as individuals and really love the country. Even when they criticize some disturbing aspects of our society, they do it in an affectionate and humorous manner. So, they really must like us. And we definitely must thank them for their kind words and concrete support throughout the years.

From Claudia Serbanescu on Good Reads

From Stephen on Good Reads... 31 July 2014

Interesting book which looks at modern day Romania in the form of short interviews from various different people from different backgrounds and their own experiences with the culture, political aspects of a country changing from a communist country to one of the latest additions to the EU membership. The only slight problem is that the book should of had more links by the author instead of a preface style start but that's just a personal choice though.

Stephen