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8 of 8 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 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gissing with more heart, 9 Dec 2012
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Zweig resolutely understood the bleakness of individual lives set against the remorseless grinding of a state machinery

In this book, suffused with rage, despair and also compassionate, hopeless, solutionless understanding, his central character is definitely one of the little people. Set in Austria, after the end of the first world war, Christine is a young lower middle class woman, one of millions whose lives were changed utterly by that war - the loss of male breadwinners in the family, plunging her into genteel penury. These people are 'the deserving poor' (offensive concept, really). Except that the state doesn't do much to recompense them for the loss of their pre-war lives. Old before her time, constrained and hopeless she has secured an invisible mouse-like existence as a rural postmistress, a lowly civil servant.

Chance offers her a sudden exposure to a different way of life. Zweig recognises the grinding invisibility of poverty, and shows what happens when this young woman briefly is turned into a beautiful swan rather than a drab duckling, through association with a wealthy relative who transforms her with the trappings of wealth. Our heroine blossoms, - perhaps a little too much, a little too quickly and unrealistically, but still, the point is made. It is not the individual's own endeavour which is ultimately responsible for their fates - we are all affected by the times, places and classes we inhabit.

Having briefly experienced the life of privilege it is impossible to return to the innocence of before. Christine has seen how others live, and the paucity of her own life. Later, she meets another whose life started out equally staid, hopeful and moral, and who again loses everything through that war.

Zweig writes from the clear rage which drove an earlier, English, writer of the genteel poor - New Grub Street, but appeared to have a certain tenderness for his seething, raging, exploited characters which you don't get with Gissing. There is the same despair for the human condition, a despair which Zweig himself succumbed to - but we surely see how it is the machinations of the mighty State, rather than the shoddiness of the central characters themselves, that is the cause of the bleakness. The lyrical transformation of Christine into Christiane for a few days, clearly shows that it is capital which has the ability to stifle or to free her.

The factual afterword indicates an ambivalence about the end of the book. Personally, with a more modernist hat on, I really liked what we are given
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars `Names have a mysterious transforming power.', 7 Jun 2010
By 
Jennifer Cameron-Smith "Expect the Unexpected" (ACT, Australia) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Post Office Girl (Paperback)
This novel tells the story of Christine Hoflehner, a post office clerk, in a small village outside Vienna some years after World War One. Here Christine exists, sharing a dank attic with her ill mother. The war has stolen her father, her brother and her capacity to laugh. The war may have ended, but poverty has not: `Now it's creeping back out, hollow-eyed, broad-muzzled, hungry and bold, and eating what's left in the gutters of the war.'

Christine is roused from this existence by a telegram from her rich aunt, inviting her to a resort in the Swiss Alps. And here, she discovers life rather than existence. Alas, it cannot last, at least not in this form.

It's the telling of the story, by the impersonal narrator, that caught and then held fast my attention. Whatever other messages the reader takes from this story, it is impossible to ignore the tragedy and loss as a world shudders in response to one war, in a period which we 21st century readers know will soon be followed by another. It's a combination of this knowledge, Mr Zweig's prose, and speculation about his intentions in writing it but not seeking its publication that make this story so moving.

`Someone who's on top of the world isn't much of an observer: happy people are poor psychologists.'

Stefan Zweig wrote this novel in the aftermath of World War One, but it was not published in his lifetime. It was first published in Germany in 1982 and was published in English in 2008. Zweig committed suicide in a pact with his second wife in Brazil in 1942.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lyrical, 29 April 2009
By 
DubaiReader "MaryAnne" (Rowlands Castle, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Post Office Girl (Paperback)
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This is a lyrical reflection on the haves and have-nots of the 1920's which feels as if it reflects a lot of the author's raw emotions at the time.
Austria is ravaged after the first World War, poverty is rife. Christine's father and brother have died and she and her mother have fallen into hard times.
We meet Christine as she endures the daily drudge of working in a provincial post office. Unexpectedly, an invitation arrives from her wealthy aunt to take a holiday in a Swiss mountain resort. She sees a side of life that she hadn't even dreamed of, new dresses, plentiful food, beauty. Unfortunately this idyll is short lived and returning to her old life is a huge wrench.
When she meets Ferdinand she finds a soul mate, both have endured great losses, but are unable to move on.
The resolution is a little vague, we are left to decide for ourselves - always a good start for a book group discussion :)

I did not realise when I chose this book, that it was published after the author's suicide in 1942, nor that it was a translation. I had assumed it was a contemporary novel. In this respect it was a bit reminiscent of Suite Française by Irene Nemirovsky. I find the use of language in books from this era to be a slower read than contemporary literature, hence the four stars.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Post Office Girl, 29 Jun 2009
By 
A. P. Mackay - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Post Office Girl (Paperback)
Well worth reading. Read it in two days, lent it, lent it again.Bought another by the same author immediately. Very well written and translated
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insight to other lives., 26 Jun 2014
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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.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars, 26 Aug 2014
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Very slow book.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful, sensitive, coming-of-age love story, 7 April 2009
By 
Angus Jenkinson "angusjenkinson" (Cambridgeshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Post Office Girl (Paperback)
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There are lots of detailed criticism and background on this novel. The bottom line for me is that I thought this was one of the most beautiful and moving novels I have read in recent years. It is a great shame that Zweig has had such a low profile in English literature. I think it works as a great literary novel and a wonderful read.

There is some question from some commentators about whether the book was actually finished, since he died before it was published and he used to gestate his editing for a long time. However, I found the ending worked beautifully leaving an imaginative enigma but with strong hints of what might happen next.

The writing is beautifully crafted, the characters rich and real and the style both readable and rich. My only criticism is that the book i received, admittedly a review copy, was not as well crafted as its contents, and pages broke out. I would put up with that to get hold of this book, but publishers please note!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read, 16 May 2014
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Top Readlover (Raleigh, N Carolina) - See all my reviews
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This seems to be a forgotten classic and I was very pleased to read it after having just read 'Beware of Pity' by the same author. Written contemporaneously in the 1920s Austria it depicts it is evocative and readable. If you liked a book like Madame Bovary then this would be for you.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Post Office Girl, 12 May 2014
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I did like the book, I thought the writing was beautiful, so descriptive, very easy to picture the scenes. Enjoyable.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A chillingly modern scenario, 28 Mar 2014
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Although this was written in the 1930s, the situation it describes is very modern. Having experienced how "the other half" live, how do you go back to your humdrum everyday life and what sort of risks are you prepared to take to for a news start? It might be rather "wordy" for modern tastes but it is worth sticking with - and I was really surprised at the ending!
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The Post Office Girl
The Post Office Girl by Stefan Zweig (Paperback - 2 Feb 2009)
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