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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Without hope in Mitteleuropa
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...
Published on 30 Oct 2009 by Earthshaker

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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking
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...
Published on 3 Mar 2009 by Snitzy-bitz


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing story that ends too soon, 14 Mar 2009
By 
A. J. Sudworth "tonysudworth" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Post Office Girl (Paperback)
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The story of a girl in her twenties , stuck in a dead end job , family impoverished by the First World War that is offered a brief entry into a world where everything seems sweetness and light and money is no object - and she loves it, throwing off all the constraints and grittiness of her life (ill mother, money worries ) - but in a revealing insight to the shallow nature of the cafe/hotel society after WW1 this is snatched away from her. A chance meeting with a like minded ex soldier offers what you think is a chance at happiness but even that is spoiled by the relentless grinding down effects of poverty, the lost chances of both their youth and they both decide enough is enough and look to end it after one last night together ..
But ... and I won't spoil the twist at the end where the story changes fron a failed Cinderella one but it s quite a reversal
And here is my one gripe - the story ends too soon ! I really wanted to see if their plan did give them the happiness they wanted and felt they deserved. But you can hope ..
The story is very measured and on the face of it not a action packed one but the characters come to life and because Zweig took the time to really develop them you really understand their feelings, hopes, motivations so this is a book for savouring and not rushing
As I say I would have loved to know what happened next ..
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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Which way shall I fly? Infinite wrath and infinite despair?, 20 Jun 2008
By 
Leonard Fleisig "Len" (Virginia Beach, Virginia) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
. . . and in the lowest deep a lower deep,
Still threatening to devour me, opens wide,
To which the he ll I suffer seems a heaven."
John Milton, Paradise Lost

There are some books that you can finish, put back down on the table and five-minutes later have it virtually erased from your consciousness. Stefan Zweig's "The Post-Office Girl" stayed with me long after I put the book down. It is a brilliantly crafted book that looks at the mind-boggling despair that can crush the soul out of just about anyone. What makes the book memorable is the fact that Zweig does not write with an overwhelming appeal to pathos. No, instead, Zweig is direct and his narrative manages to convey this sense of despair without drowning the reader in rhetorical devices aimed at soliciting.

The setting is post World War I Austria in the 1920s. The Austro-Hungarian empire has been dismantled after the Treaty of Versailles and Austria, like her ally Germany, is suffering the `economic consequences of the peace'. The Post-Office Girl is Christine Hoflehner. At the war's outset, Christine and her family enjoyed a comfortable middle-class existence in Vienna. But the war and the economic suffering brought on by the hyper-inflation of the 1920s has booted Christine out of Vienna and her middle class life. She and her mother live at the poverty level in a one-room bed-sitter in a village two hours from Vienna. Christine works as a low-ranking postal official in the town's post office. As the story opens she's in her 20s and merely going through the motions. But her robot-like existence is shattered when she receives a telegram (a big event) from an aunt, her mother's sister, who left Austria before the war and married a rich American businessman. They invite Christine to spend a holiday with them in a Swiss mountain resort. Christine goes grudgingly but is astonished at the life she is exposed too. Her aunt buys her beautiful clothes, feeds her well and all of a sudden Christine is exposed to a life she never knew existed. She takes to it immediately. She relishes her new life and cherishes every minute of it. But no sooner has she found a new life than she is tossed back into the old one. Any despair Christine may have felt before her Swiss trip is now magnified by the fact that she has actually seen how different life can be. She arrives at what she thought was the lowest deep only to discover that there are depths of despair yet to go.

It is at this point that she finds Ferdinand on a day trip to Vienna. For Ferdinand life has been, if anything, unkind to him than to Christine. Their meeting and their developing relationship takes us through the second half of the book. They know they are soul mates but their existence is such that they each know that love (if you can call their fumbling attempts at personal physical and social intimacy love) is not nearly enough to be of any help to them at all. They face the question posed by Milton in the heading of this review - which way shall they fly? Zweig's resolution is, in this context, perfect.

What Zweig has done so well in my opinion is to use Christine and Ferdinand as a masterful vehicle for looking at Austrian (and Europe generally) society in the aftermath of the Great War. Zweig's characters are well crafted and felt very realistically drawn to me. They were absorbing, warts and all. "The Post-Office Girl" was well worth reading and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in reading a book that lingers with you after you are done. L. Fleisig
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the classic some claim but readable and thought-provoking in any case, 16 Sep 2012
This is a very simple story about a poor woman who fleetingly experiences life among the wealthy in the inter-war period, only to have the experience abruptly curtailed just as she is coming to immerse herself in luxury and decadence. It talks of her hardship beforehand, living in a single room with her invalid mother; the brief joys of life with a rich aunt travelling in Europe with her American husband, when she realises that the only difference between them and her is money; then the feelings of despair and desperation when she has to return to the life she now so abhors.
The story stands up in its own right but the political undertones are clear, as is the historical context of life in Austria between the wars. It is heavily descriptive and will not suit readers who like pace in their novels but will reward those who are interested in the social and economic divisions of life in that part of the world at that time, as well as those who are interested in reflections on what happiness is about.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A thoughtful and intense slow-burner, 5 Jun 2009
This review is from: The Post Office Girl (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Post Office Girl explores the misery of the lower-middle classes in post-WW1 Austria. Christine is scraping out a living as a post office clerk in the village of Klein-Reifling, supporting her ailing mother on a salary barely adequate for one. Her life changes dramatically, if temporarily, when she is invited to join her American aunt on holiday at a posh hotel in the Swiss Alps. Escaping the shameful outward trappings of her poverty courtesy of a makeover by Aunt Claire, Christine soon takes to life as the other half live it. But her dreams come to a crashing end when her humble origins are uncovered by the snobbish hotel guests and she is bundled back to her old life, which seems more mean and straitened than ever. Christine finds a soulmate in her brother-in-law's wartime comrade Ferdinand, who is equally embittered about the circumstances of his life. The two embark tentatively on an affair, but theirs is not a conventional love story.

Stefan Zweig is best known as a writer of short stories, and it shows in this novel. The book falls naturally into three parts, each of which seems almost like a short story. The outline of the plot is simple, but much of the interest and the book's rich detail come from the unfolding of the charaters' back stories which drive their unspoken inner motivations.

The history of this novel is interesting. Zweig wrote it in the 1930s, but it was not discovered until after his suicide in 1942. The story ends on a poignant cliffhanger, and we will never know if this is where Zweig intended to finish the book, or if the narrative remains incomplete. Another layer of history is added by the fact that the book was translated into English for the first time in 2008, so reading this is like uncovering an archaeological treasure that takes the reader straight back to times almost contemporaenous with the novel's setting.

The translation (albeit produced in American rather than British English) is good. It retains the density and wordiness of German prose but is still very readable. I didn't find any jarring anachronisms either - translator Joel Rotenberg deserves credit for the fact it reads like early twentieth century writing.

I found this book took a little while to get into, but it is thoroughly worth the effort. Its haunting dissection of the daily drudgery and despair of life in early twentieth century Austria (a country which is close to my heart) will stay in my mind for some time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, charming, dark and moving, 4 Jun 2014
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This is a great book. It put me in mind of 'Hunger' by Knut Hamsun, in its evocation of a hungry, grey life, where all roads lead back to poverty. The beauty and youth of the heroine, Christina, act as a metaphor for the frustrated youth of the interwar generation and the tantalising glance at the hedonistic cafe society of the jeuness d'oree of Europe in the 1920s is truly captivating. The darkness and bitterness of the second part has a stark appeal, especially when we know that Zweig, along with his wife, committed suicide when the ink was not yet dry.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic, a beautiful & tragic novel by an author you either love or barely know..., 20 Aug 2009
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This review is from: The Post Office Girl (Paperback)
This is an exceptional book, a novel which takes you on a journey of hope & tragic despair all on one page! You simply MUST read this novel NOW ignore all
the negative reviews, read it and judge for yourself. This was my introduction to Stefan Zweig, why isn't he more widely known in the UK ? Why do hardly any of our book shops stock his novels?? Or not know who he is?? What a sad end for a very gifted author-I intend to now read all of his works. This is so far one of my favourite books of the year.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stark, melancholy and startlingly moving. Amazing!, 20 Aug 2009
By 
ELH Browning "Esther-Lou" (Kingston Bagpuize, Oxon) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Post Office Girl (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is an interesting read about a Post Mistress who lives a frugal life because of the war who inadvertently gets catapulted into a more high-living set for a brief spell and then returns dissatisfied to her former life. The paucity of her life and happiness are thought-provoking and moving. The pace is steady, rather than swift, but deep and rich with intensity and emotion. An absolute masterpiece.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, but probably not quite finished by the author, 15 Mar 2010
By 
H. Eaton "Helena Eaton" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Post Office Girl (Paperback)
Stefan Zweig is a fantastic writer. He brings another world to life so vividly that the reader is completely caught up in the story. This book is about the horror of poverty, particularly horrific when you have experienced what it is like not to have to scrimp and save, not to worry about every penny and when you have lived the life - even for a few days - of someone rich, glamorous and respected.

The main character, Christine has grown up during the war and her family has suffered. She is invited by her aunt and American uncle to holiday with them in Switzerland. This is the 'pretty woman' part of the story where a provincial post office girl is transformed into a society lady. She wears her new character like she wears the new clothes and make up she is given. She's submerged in a whirlwind of parties, suitors and has all the attention she could ever wish for. Just as suddenly as this is bestowed, it is all whipped away.

There follows a life of drudgery as Christine becomes more and more bitter about her lot. She meets a like-minded man who is also bitter about the life he's forced to lead.

I don't want to give too much away about the plot but between them they come up with 2 solutions for how to get out of the wretched lives they are leading.

The story is gripping and it's nearly impossible to put the book down at any point ... I was dying to know what would become of Christine ... I was cheering her on all the way, hoping that some good luck would befall her, willing a knight in shining armour to ride up and rescue her.

The beginning of the story is, in my opinion, perfect. The world Christine inhabits in the high class hotel, her immersion in the society of the rich and frivolous is wonderfully told - it's as though you can hear the rustle of the fine sheets, the clink of glasses, the music and chatter; you can feel the softness of the material of Christine's new dresses, see the sweep of the stair case and imagine this young girl caught up in this life that she never even dreamed could exist. When it is all cruelly taken from her, you feel the loss and take it personally.

In my opinion, it loses its way a bit when Christine returns home and meets Ferdinand. This book was found after Zweig died - it wasn't a work that he considered ready for publication and I feel that he would have thought there was work still to do on it. Parts of the plot seem like they have just been sketched out, not completed. Other parts could have done with a little revision. That's not to take away from this book which is fantastic and will remain in my memory for a long time. It just seems obvious that this isn't really the finished product Zweig would have insisted on if he had agreed to its publication.

However, a great read and I highly recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rediscovered Masterpiece, 20 May 2009
By 
Amazon Customer (Sussex) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Post Office Girl (Paperback)
It is shocking that a novel of this calibre has remained relatively obscure for so many decades. How many other masterpieces are there that haven't been translated? 'The Post Office Girl' is a wise, compassionate novel that touches on universal themes of love, identity and loss and confirms Zweig's status as one of the greatest novelists of the 20th century.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tragedy in beauty, 2 Jan 2013
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A really wonderful book, this tells the story of a girl traumatised by World War 1, who has a brief taste of luxury before it is snatched away again. Then she meets Ferdinand, who is even more troubled than she is, and they plan a way out of their miserable lives. Although the subject matter is bleak, the author writes with a lightness o f touch that feels very current, yet remains exquisitely literary.
The most fascinating fact is that the manuscript was found, unfinished, after Zweigs death, in a suicide pact with his wife.
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The Post Office Girl
The Post Office Girl by Stefan Zweig (Paperback - 2 Feb 2009)
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