The Story of a New Name (Elena Ferrante)

The Story of a New Name is the second of the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante. I read the German translation (Die Geschichte eines neuen Namens) by Karin Krieger.
Finished on: 4.4.2021
[Here’s my review of the first novel.]

Content Note: rape, domestic violence, abuse

With Lila’s marriage, she and Elena develop away from each other even more. But at the same time, they cannot let go of each other. Elena watches from a distance as Lila’s abusive marriage to Stefano turns ever more complicated by her husband’s business relations. Meanwhile Elena is dating Antonio more out of a sense of obligation, while still yearning for Nino who seems to be everything she aspires to. After Lila has a miscarriage, she asks Elena to accompany on a holiday to get her strength back. During that holiday, their paths cross with Nino and everything changes.

After reading My Brilliant Friend, I was reluctant but curious to continue, not quite sure what apparently millions of other people saw in the novel. The same thing is still true for The Story of a New Name. I read it, I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it, either and I am still scratching my head as to why this series has gotten quite this big.

The book cover showing an illustration of a woman in a bridal gown standing on a balcony over the sea, her veil blowing in the wind together with petals from her bouquet.
Continue reading

Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier)

Rebecca is a novel by Daphne du Maurier.
Finished on: 6.2.2021

Working as a companion to Mrs van Hopper has brought the unnamed protagonist to Monte Carlo where Mrs van Hopper spies Maxim de Winter, whose somewhat tragic story precedes him: he is a widower and lives at the grand estate of Manderley, now all alone. Mrs van Hopper arranges a meeting with Maxim de Winter which also introduces the protagonist to him. When Mrs van Hopper falls ill, the protagonist and Maxim de Winter start to spend more time with each other and finally he asks her to marry him. But living in Manderley, where the shadow of Maxim’s deceased wife Rebecca hangs over everything and her housekeeper Mrs Danvers makes sure it doesn’t leave, proves quite a challenge for them.

I’ve been meaning to read Rebecca for a while, and despite its renown I actually managed to stay spoiler-free – which was a good thing. But even if I had known more about how things would go down, I doubt that I would have been any less engaged in the book. Rebecca is a classic for a reason, a hypnotic novel that doesn’t let go of you easily.

The book cover showing a drawing of a young woman in front of a huge estate.
Continue reading

Der Russe ist einer, der Birken liebt (Olga Grjasnowa)

Der Russe ist einer, der Birken liebt (literally: The Russian is a person who loves birch trees) is the first novel by Olga Grjasnowa. [It is originally in German and I don’t think it has been translated into English yet.]
Finished on: 12.6.2019

Content Note: bimisia, (critical treatment of) antisemitism

Mascha came to German when she was just a child, her Jewish family originally from what is now Azerbaijan and used to be the Soviet Union when they left. Now Mascha makes the best use of her talent for languages and is working to be a translator at the UN, achieving high grades and receiving scholarships that bring her to many cities. Mascha seems to have made it, but underneat that shiny success story lies her trauma – from the pogroms in Baku that her family fled from, from the loss of her great love Elischa. But that trauma can’t remain hidden forever.

Der Russe ist einer, der Birken liebt is a challenging debut novel – both for the author and her readers. But it is absolutely worth it to work your way through it.

The book cover showing half of a sitting woman, so you can't see her face, in front of a green background.
Continue reading

Little Fires Everywhere (Celeste Ng)

Little Fires Everywhere is a novel by Celeste Ng.
Finished on: 29.5.2019

Content Note: abortion, (critical treatment of) racism

Elena Richardson rents a house to Mia Warren and her teenage daughter Pearl. Mia is an artist and she and Pearl have always moved around a lot. The Richardsons – mother, father, four children around Pearl’s age – live the compelte opposite life and Pearl is fascinated with them. Both Mia and Pearl quickly become more than just tenants. All of their relationships are put to the test, though, when friends of the Richardsons want to adopt an Chinese-American baby and Mia tries to help the biological mother keep it.

Little Fires Everywhere is wonderfully observed, realistic and well-written novel that maybe didn’t touch me quite as much as Everything I Never Told You, but I still loved it a whole lot.

The book cover showing a little paper house on fire.
Continue reading

Die verwechselten Töchter (Maria Anna Sager)

Die verwechselten Töchter [literally: The Exchanged Daughters] is an epistolary novel by Maria Anna Sager (also written as Maria Anna Sagar).
Finished on: 26.4.2019
[You can read it here in German.]

In a rather poor neighborhood, two girls are born at almost exactly the same time, and both are called Klara. Their mothers are fast friends, and the two girls grow up inseparable and often indistinguishable. When the mother of the older Klara is called away by circumstances to acquire a more affluent position, both Klaras remain with the mother of the younger Klara. When the older Klara’s mother calls for her daughter a few years later, the younger Klara’s mother hopes to find a better life for her daughter and sends the younger Klara in the older Klara’s stead – a decision that causes troubles for all of them.

Die verwechselten Töchter is an almost forgotten classic of Austrian literature, one of the first (epistolary) novels by a woman to be published at all in German. And it is still a very good read that I can absolutely recommend.

The book cover showing the mirrored silhouette of a woman with a fancy hairdo.
Continue reading