When I was in high school, I met a boy who challenged my mind. He introduced me to Classics and edgy books more advanced than I should have been reading at that time. For a 16 year old, existentialism, ménage, ultra violence and homosexuality in the late 80s and early 90s was not only taboo but considered extremely deviant. Reading, discussing and thinking about these concepts was a quick trip the school shrink and placed under a watch list. Regardless, I marched to the beat of my own drum so to speak and watched the movie with Daniel Day Lewis, one of my favourite actors of that time. The movie was difficult to watch as I witnessed Danial Day-Lewis cheat on his wife over and over again with his best friend, a woman. This complex movie so much more than a cheating husband.
It covers the Soviet Union destroying Czechoslovakia. Doctors and professionals were taken and throw into horrid situations for their "uppity" airs. When I first watched this movie and then immediately borrowed the book and read it, I felt anger on many fronts. My idealism made me angry at Tomas for what he did to Tereza. Watching this beautiful country fall apart from the Communist hostile takeover made me even angrier. This is one of the few books and movies that does an extremely accurate depiction of how Czechoslovakia fell. So well, that even my college freshman Poli-Si class mentioned this book. The teach assistant was shocked that I not only saw this movie but read the book and could discuss it on several levels.
I would have to say that this book is what opened my mind to how and why monogamy does not work for everyone. And that a man who loves his wife so much and yet loves another woman, can share his love, as long as both his lovers are on board. In many ways, I see how Tereza mirrors the Soviet Union by imposing her rigid rules and expectations on a man she wants but doesn't fully accept. Discussing this book and having my eyes slowly open to how a black and white world doesn't work impacted me and made me think in ways well beyond my 16 years of age. My high school literature teacher only encouraged this thinking which at that time and even now, sets me a little apart from others.
I guess this review is less about the book and more about how Milan Kundera impacted and shaped some of the way I think. More noticeable, shaped the way I think about sexuality and relationships. Whilst my rating of this book is merely a 3, because it made me uncomfortable and I didn't exactly enjoy it, I still highly recommend this book. Between the historical relevance and the complex relationships, it challenges the status quo in literature and makes a young reader think.