Everyone was fleeing and everything was temporary

Dear Anna, Do you know this feeling we have when something terrible happens in a dream and we must scream or run, but we find ourselves suddenly unable to do it? We have no voice, or our legs are suddenly unbearably heavy. This feeling of being trapped: that’s the stuff your novel Transit (tr. Margot…

They didn’t dare before; now they do, that’s all

Dear Anna, I was halfway through Manja (tr. Kate Phillips, 2003. Manja: Ein Roman um 5 Kinder, 1938) this past week, when your book acquired a new poignancy for me. Do you know that eerie feeling, when we overhear a stranger on the bus or out passing by us in the street, and, by accident,…

The walls of her home were falling down, there was no refuge

Dear Elisabeth, Your novel The Blank Wall (1947) is a gripping psychological thriller, in which a housewife get entangled in a web of murder, blackmail and pressing domestic demands, while remaining fiercely determined to protect her family from scandal. The novel is set  during World War II in the countryside near New York. Lucia Holley…

Pain never belonged to just one of us

Dear Affinity, As the title of your novel suggests, Mischling (2016) is an hybrid: revenge and forgiveness; horror and wonder; hope and despair – these opposites mingle here, escaping their entrapment in any fixed classification, and become one and the same formless thing. The novel’s background is Josef Mengele’s “Zoo” – Barrack 14 of Camp…

and the jungle passed in on them, seeking to cover them up

Dear Rose, Your novel The World My Wilderness (1950) is a powerful depiction of the way the Second World War ravaged people’s physical, emotional and moral landscapes. Wandering from the South of France to Scotland, and mainly set in the Blitz-ruined London, during the Summer of 1946, the novel follows the seventeen-year-old Barbary, when she is sent…

Love was so vulnerable

Dear Mary, In the midst of a very busy week for me, it was a delight to come home after a hectic day and be able to immerse myself in your quiet and heart-warming book. Good Daughters (1984), the first in the Fairley’s trilogy, is a family saga and coming-of-age story, set in the mid-1930s,…

Everyone was shut in upon themselves

Dear Norah, I just came back from a trip by bike, during which There Were No Windows (1944) was my loyal reading companion. While Spring bloomed all around me, your book drove a sharp contrast to this outdoorsy vacation. The story of Claire Temple, an elderly woman facing loneliness and the onset of dementia, takes…

All this has been described a thousand times

Dear Jean, I am writing to you in haste, just to share my impressions on 1914: a novel (tr.  Linda Coverdale), which I read for Caroline’s Literature and War Readalong 2016. During the Easter holidays, we are leaving for a bike trip to Austria, and I don’t know if I would have the time (or the…

The speed necessary to replace loss

Dear Kamila, Your novel Burnt Shadows (2009) is a mixture of family saga and political thriller, written in an elegiac tone. With the speed necessary to replace loss, the narrative carries along with its plot the fragments of many intertwined stories: the novel starts at the nuclear bombardment in Nagasaki, in the rattles of World…