Spätes Tagebuch [translates to Late Diary] is a novel by Erika Pluhar.
Finished on: 14.4.2015
Paulina Neblo used to be a dancer, but has retired long ago. Now 70 years old, she decides that she will start to write a diary, at first to keep the memories (of her dead husband, of her dead daughter) and the loneliness of her everyday life (only interrupted by her housekeeper Hortensia) at bay. But as she writes, not only do her memories keep encroaching, suddenly her lonesome routine gets severely disrupted – her former student and friend Florinda drags her shaky marriage with Vincent and Vincent himself into Paulina’s life; and a lover of old, Maxime, pops up in Paulina’s life again. Bit by bit Paulina realizes that she might not be quite as done with life and herself as she thought.
Spätes Tagebuch is not completely cliché free and it’s sometimes a little too close to kitsch, but it’s not bad at all: it’s a quick, enjoyable read.
Sometimes Pluhar dips her fingers a little too deep in the flowery prose jar, but considering that Paulina – who does the writing, it’s her diary – is not a writer, that might be forgiven. Especially since Paulina is generally a rather dramatic person who has an easier time relating to the trees in her garden than the people around her and who spends a whole lot of time alone. Idiosyncracies and exaggeration are to be expected.
That might sound like I didn’t like Paulina, but that’s not true. She was an interesting, complex character that I liked reading about. She is strong-willed and direct, but also vulnerable and very fragile. Even in the moments of her deepest depression, she is vibrant and Pluhar makes her almost jump off the page. It’s rare that we get characters like this at all, especially when they’re 70 year old women.
But there were also things about the book that I really didn’t like. Most of all there was the relationship between Florinda and Vincent. [SPOILERS] I just don’t care for “fake domestic abuse” stories, even if mental illness was to blame and not just some malicious female spirit. [/SPOILERS] Especially since that led to a decision for Vincent and against Paulina’s only female friendship, if you don’t count Hortensia – and since she’s the housekeeper and thus in a hierarchical relationship with Paulina, I don’t.
Paulina’s inability to find her own old body sexual anymore was interesting. It could and should have been more closely examined. But it’s only a sidenote in the book and thus it feels weird above anything else.
Be that as it may, I still enjoyed reading the book and I enjoyed Paulina and her character development. I just wouldn’t have wanted the book to be much longer.
Summarizing: Not bad, but not great either.