When I visited Budapest last year, we took a ferryboat to see the Danube River. I loved looking down at the Danube from the boat. Its waters were fresh, dark and magical. When I looked up from the river, I saw Budapest’s Statue of Liberty on a hill: a young girl standing against the wind, with a large feather held over her head. I was stricken with the simple beauty of the statue, just like I was stricken with the simple beauty of this book.
The Good Master, by Kate Seredy, tells of a young Hungarian boy called Jancsi and his family. Jancsi is extremely excited: his cousin Kate, from Budapest, is coming to stay on his father’s ranch! But Kate is not what Jancsi expected: she is vivacious, troublesome, and wild. At the end of the summer, however, Kate is still vivacious and a troublemaker, but she is tamer. Everybody is dismayed when she has to go back home, until one evening. . .
I could picture the people in this book clearly. In fact, it was so clear that I felt I was watching the scenes from a hidden corner! I could see Mother’s big, wide, colorful Easter skirt, and Jancsi’s embroidered shirt and pants. Sometimes, I would stroke my reading couch and almost feel the shepherd’s bunda, a coat that is leather on the outside and wool on the inside. When I finished the book, I was dismayed to find that no, it wasn’t actually snowing, that was only the story! This vividness made the book feel true, simple, and warm.
Every few chapters, a different character in The Good Master started telling a story. These stories were heartfelt and had strong morals, yet they never got preachy. I especially liked the story “The Land Where People Never Die,” which said that if you worked hard and were kind, your memory would never die and thus you would “live” forever. When the main character of this tale discovers this, he decides to stop being a mean and lazy slob and instead be kind and hardworking. So although the tales were simple, they had deep and true morals.
The Good Master was beautiful. It told of simple things, simple people, and simple tales. Although the word “simple” can be understood as “stupid” and “superficial,” the kind of simplicity in this book was beautiful.
You can buy this book here.