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Esther's Inheritance Paperback – 6 Nov 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (6 Nov. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 033050407X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330504072
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.1 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 275,797 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Chekhovian... When the penny drops, you'll feel a shiver.'
--Evening Standard

'An astounding portrait of the most ardent - and diabolical - aspects of love.' --Independent

'The drama unfolds like a Chekhov play, in the sense of both masterful psychology and unnovelistic theatricality.' --Sunday Telegraph

'Taut, charged.'


'Elegantly rendered by poet George Szirtes... I can see reading groups having a good ding-dong about this one.' --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 18 Nov. 2008
Format: Hardcover
Full of the kind of dramatic tension and intimacy usually associated with great stage plays, Hungarian author Sandor Marai's newest novel to be translated into English plumbs the depths of a love thwarted and then revisited years later. Twenty-three years before the book opens, sensible Esther, now in her mid-forties, shared a once-in-a-lifetime passion with Lajos, a man who bewitched everyone who came into contact with him, a man so full of energy--and lies--that life became a dangerous, exciting adventure for everyone. As persuasive as he was charming, he lived the good life, often borrowing valuable items and money from friends.

Now, years later, Esther has decided to record every detail of her relationship with Lajos as part of the family history. Moving back and forth in time, Esther creates a vivid picture of Lajos and the magical, mysterious hold he has exerted on everyone, concentrating on his hold over her and her ability to resist (or not resist) his versions of the "truth." When he proposed to the vulnerable, twenty-two-year-old Esther, she recognized him for the charming scoundrel he really was, but she also looked forward to a future with him. What she did not expect was that within weeks he would marry her younger sister Vilma and leave town forever. Now, twenty years later, following Vilma's death, Lajos has returned to the village, seeking Esther. Their dramatic confrontation and shared memories are the crux of the novel.

As Esther recalls events, the reader gradually sees that Esther has not been a reliable narrator--nor has Lajos, and as details emerge regarding Lajos's marriage to Vilma, the tension within Esther (and the reader) becomes almost palpable.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Brida TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 15 Feb. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Marai's novels are somewhat a different reading experience for me, compared to other authors I enjoy. Rather than gripping me from the very beginning, Marai has the tendency to slowly take hold of you and then ruthlessly not let go. This makes his novels quite a rollercoaster read, despite them sometimes being fairly slim.
Just as EMBERS slowly gripped me, so too did ESTHER'S INHERITANCE.

The story is told by Esther, a woman who recieves a letter from an old love saying that he is going to be visiting her for the first time in twenty years. Since her lost lover, Lajos, left her, she has been living a half life, unable to completely let go of the past. However, the years spent following his departure have enabled her to live a life of quiet solitude. Unti, of course, he tells her he is coming back.

That is a very brief idea of what the story is about. In some ways, not much 'happens' in this book - a bit like EMBERS - yet at the same time, Marai's wriitng is often very profound.
The spell he is able to weave with the plot as you listen to one character's perspective of a relationship is quite incredible. Marai's magic is subtle. Almost to the point that you do not at first recognise that you are falling under a spell at all - not until it is too late.
While there are similarities between this novel and EMBERS, I think I prefer this offering. Rarely before has a character created such feelings in me as Esther did. I found myself feeling sorry for her to begin with, but by the end of the novel, this had turned into something I almost cannot name. Without wanting to give too much away, you begin to doubt her word, just as she doubted Lajos.

I would highly recommend this novel to people who enjoy novels which can touch your soul, if you let them.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Andres C. Salama on 28 Nov. 2008
Format: Hardcover
A great short novel by Hungarian novelist Sandor Marai (1900-1989). Written in 1939, the novel is about Eszter, the main character and narrator, a single woman in her mid 40s, who fears the impending return of Lajos, a former lover and con man, who left her for her sister twenty years ago leaving her almost bankrupt. With help from her friends, she has reconstructed her life, but she fears that Lajos, who manipulates her at at will, is back to finish his job. As it happens, her worst fears will come to reality. The book is great, and Lajos is a great picture of a swindler. I would have expected the novel to explain a bit more why Eszter is so passive to Lajos' tricks, but despite this, this novel is an impressive work by Marai.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By ladyguinevere on 30 April 2012
Format: Paperback
The four stars are for the writing. Marai's writing is lovely. The sense of atmosphere and the careful unfolding of a history of one family and its strange tie to a charismatic conman are well-paced and very evocative. That said, I agree with another reviewer who found the ending completely unbelievable. It's hard to criticise this without giving away the ending, but I just didn't buy it, and because of that I had a hard time feeling sorry for the people you were supposed to feel sorry for, because no sane person would act that way. The conclusion also seems to hinge on a rather sexist assumption, I thought, which obviously is probably due to Marai being a product of his times back in 1938, but it still annoyed me severely. I found myself wanting to throw the book at a wall when I was finished. I wonder if that was part of the point, though, that the author was trying to make...
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