A beautiful true story: finding love after WWII

‘How many have replied?’ ‘Almost twenty.’ ‘Are you going to write back to all of them?’ ‘She’s the one,’ Miklós
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Fever at Dawn‘How many have replied?’
‘Almost twenty.’
‘Are you going to write back to all of them?’
‘She’s the one,’ Miklós answered, prodding the pocket where he had hidden the letter.
‘How do you know?’
‘I just do.’ 

In July 1945, Miklós, a Hungarian survivor of Belsen, arrives in a refugee camp in Sweden. He is skin and bone, and has no teeth. The doctor says he has only months to live.

But Miklós has other plans. He acquires a list of 117 young Hungarian women who are also in refugee camps in Sweden, and he writes a letter to each of them—obsessively, in his beautiful hand, sitting in the shade of a tree in the hospital garden. One of those young women, he is sure, will become his wife.

In a camp hundreds of kilometres away, Lili reads his letter. Idly, she decides to write back.

Letter by letter, the pair fall in love. In December 1945 they find a way to meet. They have only three days together, and they fall in love all over again. Now they have to work out how to get married while there is still time…

This story really happened.

Fever at Dawn is a love story for the ages. Based on the letters of the author’s parents, it’s a sad and joyous tale that will stay with you long after its happy ending.

Péter Gárdos was born in Budapest in 1948. He is a multiple-award-winning film and theatre director. As a director, he has received more than twenty international awards at major film festivals, among them the Jury’s Special Award at the Montreal Film Festival and the Golden Hugo at the Chicago Film Festival.

Fever at Dawn by Péter Gárdos (translated by Liz Szász) is available now from Dymocks.

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  1. Vivienne Beddoe

    This looks a beautiful story, particularly coming after so much devastation. My grandparents meeting is a sweet story. He was up a telegraph pole when this pretty Salvation Army lass walked by. In a small country town, she wasn’t hard to track down and woo.

    • What a lovely meeting for your grandparents, Vivienne. I grew up in the Salvos so I found it especially delightful to learn the connection. And like you, I think the novel looks beautiful – one to definitely look for in bookshops or the library.

    • Like you, I think the story looks beautiful, Vivienne and thanks for sharing the story of your grandparents meeting. I grew up in the Salvos so it was especially delightful to learn of that connection.

  2. Douglas Steley

    Visiting Johannesburg in the 1950s I hired a taxi to view the sites. The driver showed me a memorial of British troops bayoneting women & children, shocking but not quite true. His father was in the Army and his mother an internee! They met separated by barbed wire! It taught me not to believe everything, necessarily! A good lesson!

  3. John Reid

    I like the sound of this, Karen, the love story of Miklos and Lily coming from the harsh reality of Bergen Belsen, one of Nazi Germany’s most notorious death camps. I will read.

  4. Diana  

    Towards the end of WW2, my dad and his mates, who were based at Bacchus Marsh army camp, had decided to come to Melbourne for the day. Dad was the only one of them that spoke English. When they arrived back at Spencer Street station to go home, they had missed their train. Dad spotted this gorgeous young thing, who seemed competent on the trains and asked when the next train was. “Sorry, you missed the last train today” she told him, and then took him and his mates back to her parents home for the night. Next morning, she took them to the station and saw them safely on the train. She was captivated by the blue eyes of the English speaker, and the two corresponded…. and that was the beginning of their story

  5. Diana Greynomads Ross

    Towards the end of WW2, my dad and his mates, who were based at Bacchus Marsh army camp, had decided to come to Melbourne for the day. Dad was the only one of them that spoke English. When they arrived back at Spencer Street station to go home, they had missed their train. Dad spotted this gorgeous young thing, who seemed competent on the trains and asked when the next train was. “Sorry, you missed the last train today” she told him, and then took him and his mates back to her parents home for the night. Next morning, she took them to the station and saw them safely on the train. She was captivated by the blue eyes of the English speaker, and the two corresponded…. and that was the beginning of their story

  6. Colleen Duncan

    My Dad was a American soldier stationed at Camp Cable south of Brisbane, he met my Mum here, they married n had 2 sons, Mum was one of thousands of war brides who went to the US. I was born in Michigan but sadly my Dad was killed in a car accident when I was a baby, Mum came back to Qld with us kids and this is where I grew up. I have a ton of US relatives who I am in contact with

  7. Sisca Portelli

    My parents met before the Second World War, they dated for some time then the war started dad was called up to go with his army uniform on and mum in just plain clothes dad asked her to marry him ,they went to the majestry office and were married that same night dad was called to fight in Germany, he was gone a long time then a Sargent came to mums door to say my dad had been killed,mum went to pieces then after several months dad stood there knocking on her door he had not died he was held by the Germans then managed to escape they finally spent there first night together.

  8. Anne Hare

    Mum was a trainee nurse in Goulburn NSW. Dad’s regiment was there and he had to go to the hospital with “bunged up eyes”. The city slicker and the country girl married had four kids and were together for 45 years before Mum died.

  9. Karen Jones  

    Sounds like a beautiful love story

  10. Thanks for a great review on a subject I am very interested in and for including that lovely little snippet, Karen. Now to keep an eye out for it in bookshops or the local library.

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