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The Post Office Girl [Paperback]

Stefan Zweig
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

2 Feb 2009
“CINDERELLA MEETS BONNIE AND CLYDE IN THIS HAUNTING TALE OF THE BOOM AND BUST OF CAPITALISM” Christine toils away in a provincial Austrian post office when, out of the blue, a telegram arrives inviting her to join an American aunt she’s never known in a fashionable Swiss resort. Bowed by the grinding poverty and hardships of the post-war years and anxious about her ailing and dependent mother she accepts, only to be swept up into a world of almost inconceivable wealth and unleashed desire. She feels herself utterly transformed. Then, just as abruptly, her aunt cuts her loose and she has to return to the post office, where, yes, nothing will ever be the same. Christine meets Ferdinand, a bitter war veteran and disappointed architect, forced to work on construction sites. They are drawn to each other, just as they are crushed by a sense of deprivation, of anger and shame. Yet their attempts at seduction and love can only flounder among the degradations of poverty until, in one desperate and decisive act, they find a way to remake their world from within.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Sort Of Books; Reprint edition (2 Feb 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0954221729
  • ISBN-13: 978-0954221720
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) was an Austrian writer who, at the height of his fame in the 1920s and 30s, was one of the most famous authors in the world. Zweig was born into a wealthy Austrian-Jewish family in Vienna, where he attended school and university before continuing his studies on Berlin. A devotee of Hugo von Hoffmanstahl, he had published his first book of poetry by the age of 19. After taking a pacifist stance during the First World War he travelled widely and became an international bestseller with a string of hugely popular novellas including Letter from an Unknown Woman, Amok and Fear. He also developed friendships with great writers, thinkers and artists of the day, including Romain Rolland, Rainer Maria Rilke, Arturo Toscanini and, perhaps most importantly, Sigmund Freud, whose philosophy had a great influence on Zweig's work.

In 1934, with the rise of Nazism, he moved to London. There he began proceedings for the divorce of his first wife Frederika, whom he had left for his secretary Lotte Altmann, a young German-Jewish refugee. In London he also wrote his only novel - his most famous and arguably greatest work, Beware of Pity - before moving to Bath, where, with the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, he and Lotte took British citizenship. With the German occupation of France in 1940, Zweig, a committed pacifist and advocate of European integration, was devastated. "Europe is finished, our world destroyed," he wrote. Zweig and Lotte married and left Europe for New York, before finally settling in Petrópolis, Brazil, where in 1942 the couple were found dead in an apparent double suicide.

Product Description


An extraordinary work...there's a volcanic energy to Zweig's writing...wholly mesmerising. (The Herald)

A far more powerful, worthwhile and enjoyable novel than our present bestsellers (David Sexton Evening Standard)

This haunting novel is a monument to Zweig's skill (Sunday Telegraph)

Language that pierces both brain and heart (The Spectator)

Stefan Zweig was a late and magnificent bloom from the hothouse of fin de siecle Vienna...The posthumous publication of a Zweig novel affords an opportunity to revisit this gifted writer...The Post Office Girl is captivating. (The Wall Street Journal)

Zweig is one of the masters of the short story and novella, and by 'one of the masters' I mean that he's up there with Maupassant, Chekhov, James, Poe, or indeed anyone you care to name. (Nicholas Lezard Guardian)

A brilliant writer. (New York Times)

I do think this is exceptional.There are scenes of hope and despair that are so lucid, powerful and alive. A classic. (Esther Freud)


'An extraordinary work ... there's a volcanic energy to Zweig's writing ... wholly mesmerising.'

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
47 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crisis? What crisis? 28 Jan 2009
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
There are some books which still feel relevant whenever they are read, no matter when they were written. This is one such book. Discovered after the author had committed suicide in 1942 after having fled Nazi Germany it is the tale of a girl, the 'Post Office Girl' of the title, who, for a few days, gets to experience the rich life in Switzerland before being dumped back into obscurity. It details the clash between feeling important and being someone because you have money, and the frustration and obscurity of those without money who feel cheated by the Austrian state. It is a tale of hope and despair, of dreams realised and broken. Set in 1926 with Austria in economic crisis due to the First World War it is truly a clash of cultures - between those who probably don't realise anything is wrong and those who feel it too keenly - the writing throws you straight into this situation and there is not a word out of place here. The plot is taut and carries you with it right inside the head of the Post Office Girl. I can't reccommend this book highly enough.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Product of a master craftsman... 19 Feb 2009
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I must come clean, I'd never read anything by Stefan Zweig (or even heard of him) before I picked up this novel. On finishing it, I methodically hunted down everything he ever wrote and I have them all stacked next to my bed, awaiting devourment.

Zweig's language is beautifully poetic, even in translation the symmetry and deftness of his phrasing is striking. But what really drew me in, even beyond the language, was the deceptively simple story and how Zweig uses a delicate fable to say so much.

One of the major themes of the novel is metamorphosis, and how people adapt to change itself. Christine's exposure to a world of splendour far beyond her wildest dreams leaves her unable to cope with the harshness of reality when she finds her temporary idyll pulled out from under her. It seems like Zweig is saying beware too much happiness, beware the pain that remembered happiness can inflict. It's a bit like George Bernard Shaw's quote on the two great tragedies in life - losing your heart's desire, and gaining it.

There's a poignant sense of loss running through the novel, and in many ways it reads as a wistful meditation on a lost era, and even an entire lost generation. Zweig's pacifism is plain, and he clearly demonstrates how the great poison of war can trickle down and infect the lives of ordinary people many years after the last explosion or gunshot. For Zweig, the destruction of innocence and hope doesn't end, and can't be healed, with armistice.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Without hope in Mitteleuropa 30 Oct 2009
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
For the English-speaking reader, the experience of Austria in the twentieth century is often an afterthought. Although the First World War begins with conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, the Anglophone world focusses almost entirely on the Western Front and the struggle with Germany, and the focus on Germany remains when we discuss the aftermath of war. It is welcome, then, that Stefan Zweig's novel of the Austrian aftermath is now available in English.

It's an excellent depiction of a world from which all hope has gone: of grinding poverty, both financial (the country is bankrupt and hyperinflation has destroyed people's savings) and, for want of a better world, spiritual: of lives with nothing to look forward to, in which life is a matter of killing time before death comes as a relief. Zweig is good on the way the cash-nexus infiltrates all aspects of life: even sex, which one would think of as a free pleasure, is made problematic by the fact that privacy can only be bought with money. (In this he is rather reminiscent of Orwell in "Keep the Aspidistra Flying".)

In this situation perhaps the worst thing that can happen is for a chink of light to be offered and then taken away, and this is what happens to the heroine: for a few days, she gets to sample the lives of the rich. Money changes everything, and (as noted above) reaches into the most basic physical parts of life: her sleep is no longer spoiled by worrying about getting up for work, leisure gives her the chance to exercise her body whilst money gives her the chance to dress better and adorn herself. The rich in this world are not merely better off financially: they are better off physically, fitter and better-looking.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking 3 Mar 2009
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The story is about a young Austrian girl,Christine who lives in poverty with her sick mother, and works in a post office, just after World War 1. She unexpectedly receives an invitation from a rich aunt (who'd never previously had contact with her) to join her on a holiday in Switzerland. She arrives feeling ashamed of her poor clothes and obvious poverty, but like the Fairy Godmother, the aunt soon transforms her with the aid of a few shopping sprees and a make-over, and soon Christine is transformed and accepted by the posh young set at the hotel. I won't spoil the ending for you, but suddenly the aunt decides to send Christine packing, and Christine is unable to settle or accept her old life, and becomes bad-tempered and solitary. It is then that she meets Ferdinand, a kindred spirit who is also unable to accept his undeserved lot in life. This is when they hatch their plan ...

The story is quite intense, deep and thought-provoking. It certainly brings home how we can take what we have for granted, and how easily it can be taken away.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Published 3 days ago by C. R. Mandall
5.0 out of 5 stars enjoyed the book immensly
Purchased it for my Kindle to take on holiday, enjoyed the book immensly. Informative as well as enjoyable.
Published 6 days ago by Christine Pacey
5.0 out of 5 stars Insight to other lives.
What easy lives some of us have compared with the key character of this book. Well written and kept one on their toes to the end.
Published 16 days ago by Les lie Ayres
3.0 out of 5 stars The post office girl
Life was very hard for this young girl who was played very badly by her relatives in post war Germany, I hope she a better life but I doubt it. Read more
Published 18 days ago by cass
5.0 out of 5 stars Great writing
Studied his work years ago but not come across this one before. Completely engrossed from the first page and can't wait to read more of this great writer.
Published 19 days ago by Rose Daly
5.0 out of 5 stars great book
very good book.very well written .not easy to put down .very interesting .very life like people and very nice book .
Published 20 days ago by Martin Green
2.0 out of 5 stars let down
I quite enjoyed the story (such poverty) but what a let down at the end.
What happened with their lives afterwards?
I m glad I paid so little for it!
Published 23 days ago by jilly
4.0 out of 5 stars A taste of honey's worse than none at all
Set in 1926, The Post Office Girl tells the story of an impoverished girl, Christine, from an impoverished family running a "Post Office" in an impoverished village in... Read more
Published 23 days ago by Ruju
2.0 out of 5 stars Not my choicenext time.
This promised to be a most interesting book for the first half It then changed to a political theme ,But perhaps that is true of the time between "haves" and the "have... Read more
Published 27 days ago by periway
5.0 out of 5 stars The Post Office Girl
Beautiful prose, even in translation! I will definitely read more by Stefan Zweig. It's so strange that this author isn't a household name?
Published 29 days ago by Mr A Evans
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