Vienna (Eva Menasse)

Vienna is Austrian author Eva Menasse‘s first novel.

Vienna tells the story of a Viennese (half-) Jewish family from the beginning of the 20th century to today. It does so through various anecdotes. The book focusses mostly on the father and the grandfather of the family, chronicling their way through the second world war and how they build their life up again afterwards.

I liked Vienna. It’s well written, with a great sense of humour and it’s so perfectly Viennese, it was a joy to read.

There aren’t many books or writers who manage to capture Vienna and its inhabitants but Eva Menasse is definitely one of them. Starting with the language she uses for her descriptions to the dialogues. And of course the special brand of Austrian humour.

Usually, Austrian writers start to sound rather German when they start to write (I know I do), since there are rather few Austrian writers and even fewer Austrian translators, so books tend to be really German. It was nice to see one so casually and unapologetically Austrian.

Anyway, enough waxing about hearing your native voice in a book.

The book itself is light entertainment. The characters are interesting but I was a little disappointed by the complete focus on the male characters. The various wives and daughters were skimmed over, mostly and it would have been nice to get to know more about them.

I also had some problems with the ending – that kinda came out of nowhere. And it bugged the hell out of me that I didn’t really get to know the narrator until the very end – I had a theory that the narrator didn’t really exist because there was just no information there.

Despite these issues, I enjoyed reading it and I’d recommend it to people who want to get a feel for Vienna.

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