Red Hands

By Colin W. Sargent

Category: Fiction, Historical, Women's

Formats available: Paperback, Ebook

Pages: 312

Publication date: 03/08/20

ISBN-13: 9781909954397

ISBN-10: 190995439X

A deeply compelling tale of a woman caught inside the destruction of a Communist regime.

Iordana is a normal girl, brought up with all the perks of Romania’s corrupt communist regime. Then she falls in love and marries the eldest son of her parents’ arch-rival, Romania’s monstrous dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. They become the in-laws from hell, but she brings them their only grandson. And then there’s the 1989 revolution, when crowds will kill anyone with the Ceausescu name. In all the blood and chaos, can Iordana keep her little son alive?

Drawn from eighty hours of unique interviews and told in Iordana’s own voice; this true-life tale spins readers into the pleasures, excesses and horrors of late twentieth-century Europe.

Some Blogger Reaction

‘An astonishing work, brilliantly told. In Iordana Ceausescu, Colin Sargent has given us a fascinating window into the brutal regime of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu and their near destruction of Romania. A cautionary tale for our times.’  – Nancy Schoenberger, author of The Fabulous Bouvier Sisters

Red Hands is uniquely unsettling and a standout read… a page-turner fuelled by intrigue, blind greed, and staggering accuracy.’ – Victoria Rowell, author of The Women Who Raised Me

‘A fascinating look at Romania — now a staunch NATO ally — as it emerges from the Cold War.  Centred on the story of a close relative of feared dictator Ceausescu, it provides a uniquely human frame to the dangerous turbulence of that dynamic and complex period in Eastern Europe.’ – Admiral James Stavridis, USN, Supreme Allied Commander at NATO (2009-2013)

‘Thrillingly good. Sargent tackles the biggest themes — historical change, greed, power, love, desire, and what it means to be free — but at the heart of the book is a gloriously human depiction of one woman’s extraordinary life. A tale from last century and a warning for this one, Red Hands is a novel of rare power that teaches us much about Romania and even more about ourselves.’ – D.D. Johnston, author of The Secret Baby Room


With elegance and journalistic precision, this novel speaks to the timeless struggle of individuals up against powerful collectives.

- Midwest Book Review

Sargent’s work reads like memoir, written in Iordana’s voice. But Sargent’s skilled writing provides vivid images, lively character studies, a portrait of a brutal, controlling regime, insights into the nature of love, friendship and courage, and tension maintained at such a pitch, that it was almost a relief when the blood eventually began to spill. In an era of books geared to gendered markets, there’s more than enough of both romance and political intrigue to satisfy both groups.

- Helen Johnson - Historical Novel Society

Haz de necaz. The term – Romanian for rueful laughter – fittingly appears a number of times in this novel. It pretty much describes Red Hands’ tone – tragedy hardened further by comedy.
After his extraordinary second novel, The Boston Castrato, Colin Sargent shifts his intelligent and sharp focus from 1920s USA to the Romania of the 1960s onwards.
Employing a part autobiographical, part fictionalised first person account, he empathetically describes the troubled life of Iordana Ceauscescu, wife of Valentin, the eldest child of Nicolae and Elena.
Although increasingly critical of Romania under the wonderfully self-described Danube of Thought and the Mother of the Nation, this is less a comprehensive critique of the Romanian socialist regime than a very personal story of love and loss amidst senior political families.
Herself the daughter of senior communist party members, ‘Dana’ has the temerity to exercise self-agency by marrying Valentin, the most self-contained and least ideological of the Ceaucescus.
Having done so in the face of opposition from both families, but especially against the express instructions of the ironclad Elena, the young couple are pretty much cast out of the Ceauscescu orbit, although not entirely free of the ministrations of the Securitate.
Sargent is at his most skilful and immersive in describing the interior life of Dana as she both seeks to accommodate Elena’s wishes whilst trying to retain the affections of Valentin. The latter, as with all the Ceauscescu children, slowly succumb to the immense gravitational pull of their parents, causing Dana further humiliation and heartbreak…
Sargent’s description of the street battles and looting in Bucharest are palpitatingly told, fully engaging the reader in the narrowness of their survival.
This is a fine book and an excellent read.

- Paul Simon - Morning Star

Colin W. Sargent

Novelist Colin W. Sargent is the author of The Boston Castrato and Museum of Human Beings. He is the founding editor and publisher of Portland Magazine. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, he has an MFA from Stonecoast and a PhD in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. He teaches writing at William & Mary.

Related News & Articles

Midwest Book Review for RED HANDS

Colin Sargent describes crafting Red Hands, his latest novel about Iordana Ceausescu, like salvaging scattered crystals from a shattered chandelier. For her, telling this past is not unlike shattering into a thousand shards all over again. Sargent’s depiction restores her as a luminescent and resilient whole set against a turbulent …

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