Acting on a recommendation from a friend, a young Hungarian writer employs an elderly housekeeper, Emerence Szeredas. Emerence, it transpires, is stoic, fanatically private, and exhibits peculiar behaviour, fortunately outweighed by her strong work ethic. Over the decades as her tragic past is revealed, a deep bond develops between the two women.
Partly autobiographical, this unpredictable and understated story resonates with a haunting Eastern European flavour. Translated from Hungarian. [Small font]
A highly articulate translation. As well as relating a story of an entirely believable relationship, the book piqued our interest in Hungarian political history, of which we were largely ignorant. Thoughtful notes and stimulating questions.
We all loved this one. We were drawn in by the unusual story and writing, and place in time. Such good characters!
After a slow beginning this book became a truly great read. The exploration of human behaviour being affected by childhood trauma gave our group much interesting discussion. Well-written in translation.
Our group were not big fans of this book with only two readers completing it. While everyone thought the story itself interesting, all agreed the style of writing was challenging.
A well written book but "enjoyable " is not the word. We all found the book disturbing for different reasons - psychological trauma, angst, idiocy and cruelty to animals. But we all finished the book because we acknowledged the brilliant writing. How did the writer manage to get under our skin so well with so little plot
A very strange story. We had varied opinions about the main character, but it provided a very interesting discussion.
Hard to know how to rank this book. To give it a 6 average would put readers off a special read. An impressive translation of a very well written book. The story, set in Budapest after WW2, starts and ends with a disturbing dream and evolves around the developing relationship of two women, Magda the writer and Emerence her housekeeper - two very different personalities shaped by the political and psychological conflicts of Central Europe. Our group varied from 2/10 with most tending towards 8/10.
A great start to the year. A compelling and complex novel. Thought-provoking and unusual. Members plan to read other books by this author. Well translated. Hard to put down once started.
We found this quite a challenging read and some found it quite harrowing. But we all agreed that the writing was outstanding and the translation is worthy of the acclaim it received.
What to say about this one! Well, we all finished it, though no-one actually enjoyed it. Comments ranged from unlikeable main characters, the lack of depth of the supporting ones, to the sheer improbability of the happenings. We didn't feel we learned much about the Hungarian mind set or about Hungary itself for that matter, although events were hinted at in passing. But it was beautifully translated! And it was clever - in the gradual revelation of Emerence's past and the light it shone on her odd behaviour.
There was general agreement that the book was difficult to get into, and that it took a long time for the action to develop. However, the relationship between the two women was compelling, and the revelation of Emerence's history went some way to understanding her experiences.