More Was Lost is Eleanor Perenyi's memoir and a clear-eyed elegy to a world gone by--the brief life Perenyi, an American abroad, shared with her husband, a Hungarian baron, on his family's 750-acre estate before World War II tore apart the couple and Europe as they had known it. Perenyi tells her story with witty and frank ease, bringing to life the Hungarian estate and its inhabitants, and inviting the reader into her memories of a lost place and time.
Eleanor Perenyi (1918-2009) was born in Washington, where she attended the National Cathedral School for Girls before leaving with her parents--Ellis Spencer Stone, a naval officer who worked as a military attache to the American Embassy in Paris, and Grace Zaring Stone, a novelist--to travel. In 1937 she met Baron Zsigmond Perenyi at a diplomatic dinner in Budapest and married him shortly after, moving to his family's castle in Ruthenia, under Czech rule at the time. The author tended to the family's 750-acre farm and would continue garden for the rest of her life, writing Green Thoughts in 1981, widely considered a garden writing classic. World War II put Ruthenia in political turmoil, and in the 1940s the author left Europe, divorced Baron Perenyi in 1945, and eventually settled in New York and then Connecticut, working at various magazines, including Harper's Bazaar and Mademoiselle.
"The book is entirely unpretentious...It is always lucid and
crisp...If it is possible to draw a moral from the story, it would
have to have something to do with the enormous and dangerous
discrepancy between the traditional American way of taking Europe
as a delightful fairy tale and the picture it actually presents: of
absurd, anachronistic nationalisms and unequal stages of social
development tearing one another to pieces."
--Edmund Wilson, The New Yorker
"[Parts] of More Was Lost...read more delightfully than
fiction. The book is full of delightful anecdotes, glimpses of
semi-feudal life, vignettes of the friends and relatives with whom
the Per nyis passed their days."
--Catherine Maher, The New York Times "The baronial way of life that Eleanor recorded has the historical detail of Patrick Leigh Fermor's Between the Woods and the Water, yet there is none of the traveler's distance in her writing."
--Richard Teleky, The Hopkins Review "[Per nyi] emerges from her own pages a thoroughly likable person...her book is soaked in the atmosphere of a society and way of life that were several centuries outdated even before the Germans and the Hungarians and the Ruthenians and the Russians finally obliterated it from the world. The feudalism of Hungary was rusty and obsolete, but it had its charms. Now they are only memories, so that More Was Lost has the appeal of a lost cause." --Orville Prescott, The New York Times
It's tempting to call this lovely little book "charming," but it's much steelier--and sadder--than that...How lovely that More Was Lost is lost no more.
--Britta Bohler, Open Letters Monthly