The No-Obligation Book Club reads Sandor Marai’s gorgeous gem of a novel.

By Real Simple
Updated January 31, 2014
Embers, by Sándor Márai

Hi, everyone:

I’m Deb Curtis, the director of audience development at Time Inc.’s Lifestyle Group Digital, and I’d like to give you a big thank-you for making up my mind between reading Embers and Franny and Zooey: It was a tough call! Embers was recommended to me over the holiday break, and it was made to sound like such a beautiful and concise story—a very fitting read in a month that is both short and sweet. Based on the reviews, it may leave us shedding a few tears into our Whitman’s samplers, but that’s okay, salted chocolates are all the rage these days. So let’s enjoy this…

According to, readers have given Embers an Ed McMahon–worthy 3 and ¾ stars: “Originally published in 1942 and now rediscovered to international acclaim, this taut and exquisitely structured novel by the Hungarian master Sandor Marai conjures the melancholy glamour of a decaying empire and the disillusioned wisdom of its last heirs.

“In a secluded woodland castle an old General prepares to receive a rare visitor, a man who was once his closest friend but who he has not seen in forty-one years. Over the ensuing hours host and guest will fight a duel of words and silences, accusations and evasions. They will exhume the memory of their friendship and that of the General’s beautiful, long-dead wife. And they will return to the time the three of them last sat together—following a hunt in the nearby forest—a hunt in which no game was taken but during which something was lost forever. Embers is a classic of modern European literature, a work whose poignant evocation of the past also seems like a prophetic glimpse into the moral abyss of the present.”

Let’s read it like this:

• Chapters 1 through 7 for Friday, February 7.

• Chapters 8 through 14 for Friday, February 14.

• Chapters 15 through 20 for Friday, February 21.

Here we go!