Once, Only the Swallows Were Free is a literary memoir, published by Hybrid Publishers.
It is the story of a family from Transylvania, a region of Romania, during the most turbulent times of the 20th century. It explores issues of identity and family relationships against a background of the major political events of the time.
What inspired me to write the book?
Twenty five years after I left my native land, communism fell and I set out to find my half-brother Tom, with whom I had lost contact. Tom, the young boy with a limp, I spent my childhood with, was now an erudite man, stuck as a gateman, punishment for his social origins.
In a cosy room with red Persian carpets and photographs of his mother, who died giving him birth, he told me stories about his life under communism, sad and funny stories which needed to be told. I interleave these with stories of the rest of the family, a riches-to-rags saga, then their eventual emigration to Israel. Not the Land of Milk and Honey for them, but hard work, poverty, relentless heat and wars.
This story moves beyond the life of a family, it depicts neighbours and friends, communist authorities and everyday people, colourful characters who breathe life into the times.
Please have a look at the excerpts, see if you like the writing and the atmosphere it conveys. The book is available from bookshops and the usual websites both in paper and ebook.
What the reviews say:
Gouch’s writing style is picturesque. It is filled with glorious anecdotes and written with fiction-like narrative flair and its overall impact is a beautiful story, notwithstanding the trauma it describes. Nicolette Snowden, Eras Journal, published by Monash University.
Exceptional times call for extraordinary measures and Gouch takes a complex true story and delivers an exceptional chronicle. Rama Gaind, PS News
This is a story of discovery for Gouch, but for us it provides a window into a particular place, time and experience that most of us know little about. The knowledge, the understanding we gain from reading it is a precious thing. Gouch’s words are powerful and worth sharing. Whispering Gums
Beautifully written, I found this memoir both compelling and moving. Amanda Hampson best selling author
The sweeping events of 20th Century Europe confront familial love, chance and fate in this beautifully written treatment of ordinary lives in extraordinary times. …. But it all stops too soon! Can’t wait for the next instalment. Richard Matheson, goodreads
Thoroughly enjoyable! This is a beautifully crafted memoir. The skill of the writer is evident on every page. Lee-Anne, goodreads
This is a story that had to be told: ripples of history from a unique time and place via one family’s journey from the ravages of World War II in Transylvania to the desert fringes of the fledgling state of Israel and, for the narrator, on to Australia.
Gouch’s voice is at once elegiac and compassionate. Her love of the natural world paints the landscapes through which she has travelled. Marilla North, freelance journalist
In the USA the book is also available in a number of university libraries eg. Stanford, Harvard, Michigan.