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The Post Office Girl
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on 12 August 2017
An extraordinarily vivid portrait of the period. Such a pity he never finished it... but the characters and situation are so real.
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on 4 November 2017
very engaging book giving an insight to what it was like living in Austria post world war 1.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 27 August 2017
Twenty-eight-year-old Christine works as a post office clerk in the village of Klein-Reifling, two hours by train from Vienna; her father and brother were killed in the First World War, and Christine and her invalid mother now live in reduced circumstances in a damp, cramped attic room. Her job at the post office is tedious and dull, but she needs the money to support herself and her mother and she is resigned to living her life from day to day in quiet despair. When one day she receives a telegram from her wealthy Aunt Klara, who has arrived in Europe from America, inviting Christine on a holiday at Pontresina in the Swiss Alps, she is filled with both excitement and apprehension. She packs her wicker suitcase, borrows an unflattering yellow travelling coat from her sister, and arrives in Pontresina where she is welcomed by her aunt - who takes one look at Christine's clothes, lends her some of her own beautifully designed garments and takes her off to the hairdressers to have her hair restyled. Transformed in appearance and with her confidence growing daily, Christine soon makes friends with some of the wealthy guests of the hotel where she and her aunt and uncle are staying, and before long she is out partying and making conquests amongst the young men. Unfortunately for Christine however, she arouses the jealousy of one of the young women of their party, and the young woman retaliates by circulating rumours about Christine's penurious background suggesting that Christine is trying to pass herself off as a young heiress. Christine's aunt, who has gradually become increasingly uneasy about her niece's new-found popularity, and worried that her own humble and rather questionable background will also come under close scrutiny, overreacts and sends her niece quickly back to Klein-Reifling. Confused and feeling abandoned and resentful, Christine finds it difficult to settle back into her old life of drudgery and when she meets Ferdinand, the angry and embittered wartime friend of her brother-in-law, she is only too ready to enter into a friendship that takes her further down the path of despair and disillusionment.

Stefan Zweig vividly describes post-WW1 Austria and the effect the Great War wrought on the country and its people. His depiction of the situation Christine and Ferdinand find themselves in and their resultant anger, feelings of betrayal and ultimate despair is unsettling to read and presages later events in Germany's and Austria's history in the build-up to WW2. This is a book of two halves - in the first section we read of Christine's Cinderella-like transformation and her optimism for the possibility of a whole new life and, in the second section, we learn of her disillusionment and of her abandoning hope for the future - and I have to say although I preferred reading the first part of the novel to its bleaker counterpart, it was the second part of the story that lingered in my mind after I had finished the last page.

4 Stars.
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on 7 March 2017
An essential reading from Stefan Zweig - the story emerges as a historical document about post war Austria and the effect on ordinary people. The character - a post office girl exemplifies this in her life story. Ultimately it is a tragic tale but one of the true human condition. It seems to me that Zweig did not complete this novel - the ending is too vague. On another note - Did anyone find the binding on this edition very bad with pages coming away from the central binding strip ?
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 August 2012
Utterly engrossing novel of two parts. In the first, Christine, a faded 28 year old clerk lives a poor and humdrum life in 1930s Austria. Unexpectedly a rich aunt invites her for a brief holiday; in sensuous descriptions of the luxurious hotel and the gorgeous new clothes, Zweig shows how Christine sees what she has been missing. Suddenly wealthy men are paying her attention, everyone respects and admires her...till the holiday is over and she is returned to her old life. Moody and dissatisfied, she cannot recapture her previous self.
In part 2, she encounters Ferdinand, another angry and resentful individual; years stuck in Siberia as a result of the First World War have ruined his career opportunities.....
Up until the last page I was wondering what would happen, and it didn't go the way I expected! A highly compelling read.
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VINE VOICEon 28 August 2009
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
No wonder this writer is one of the big ones in his native German language. "Masterful" about does it as a description of his writing skills. He describes a country in crisis and the hardships of common people. Christina makes a living working in a provincial post office. An invitation from an American aunt and uncle to join them transforms her life. There is hope, she sees doors open for her. She enters a new, a different life, she finds herself in wealthy circles. But then her aunt drops her and she has to go back to her former life. What makes this more than another Cinderella story is the skill of the writer in noticing details, setting a mood, being able to make you feel the character's emotions, to live their hopes, their disappointments: "...She sits there in silence, empty eyes on the table, but something's happening, something beyond her benumbed awareness: that new creature, the manufactured changeling that had taken her place for nine dreamlike days, that unreal yet real Fräulein von Boolen, is dying in her. She is still sitting in that other woman's room, with that other woman's pearls around her neck, a bold slach of red lipstick on her lips; the beloved dragonfly-light gown is still on her shoulders, but now it's like a winding sheet. It's no longer hers, nothing here, nothing in this other, exalted, more blessed realm belongs to her anymore, it's all as borrowed and alien as on the first day..... One feeling drowns out all the others, a boundless rage, a dull, clenched, impotent rage without outlet or object (her aunt, her mother, fate), the rage of someone who has suffered an injustice. All she knows is that something has been taken from her, that now she must leave that blissfully winged self to become a blind grub crawling on the ground; knows only that something is gone forever."
I thought this quote would let the book speak for itself. This book grips you, it sweeps you away with the story as if it was your own life.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 22 June 2009
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
It's a crying shame that this book has not been published in English before now - written prior to 1948, published first in German in 1982 and this publication in English in 2008. Stefan Zweig - if translation is accurate - is an accomplished writer who fills the pages with feeling and emotion.

Had I read the back cover the words " . . . haunting yet compassionate reworking of the Cinderella story . . ." I may not have bothered choosing to read this book as I would have found the comment a little romantically off-putting for a such a serious work as Austria just after World War One. This is not a Cinderella story, and in my opinion should not have been linked as such, it's not a rags to riches romance it's rags, rags and more rags with a ten day spell of opulence, courtesy of an aunt, back to rags and an encounter with a man that is certainly not a romantic experience. The storyline I found easy to get into and felt it flowed well through a desperately lonely and unfulfilling life of Christine, the Post Office Girl.

I know little of Zweig's personal life but feel that the book must run fairly parallel to his life in that the feeling of desperation, despair and hopelessness written into the book can only be from personal experience, especially when a pact of suicide is planned in the book and the fact that Zweig and his wife carried this out, such a feeling of hopeless sadness.

The only reason I gave this book four and not five stars is because of the ending. Without spoiling it for any potential readers, the end could so easily have been the beginning of part two of the story and carried on with how the couple did or didn't make their way through Europe after the excellently detailed plans at the end of the book. The ending I found very lacking and in fact could have been left this way because the author had died and not finished his work to a state of publication.

Zweig is a top quality writer and would recommend this book to all who appreciate a superior novel of notable worth.
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on 11 October 2009
This book has a resonance in the current economic climate, though the setting is the crushing poverty of the immediate post War period. The novel deals with the need for hope in all lives, the need to believe that things can one day be other than they are, better than they are - and the bitter sweet depiction of our heroine's exposure to the life of luxury she has been ever denied has such a ring of truth as she, in her excitement and naivete is swept into becoming all things the uncle she is visiting had itnially admired her for not being, that it is all the more heartbreaking when the truly facile nature of her new found relationships in a hotel far from home becomes apparent and she realises that she is, to all, discovered as no more than "The Post Office Girl" made over by an aunt embarassed by her threadbare appearance.

The second Act then takes us back to her home, now laid bare to her in all its privations, where she now sees her world brought into focus by a harsh comparison with al she had thought she had gained opnly to find it was borrowed on false pretences. And the loss of hope, the loss of her belief that her industriousness and frugality can earn her a better life make her ongoing mere existence unbearable.

So when exposed to another external influence, this time from another who has had his heart hardened in the forges of experience of social injustice, the post Office Girl's life takes another dramatic, and tragic, turn.

This book is almost unended. It was discovere as a manuscript after the author's suicide, and it is for us, the readers, to decide whether our characters continue on the paths embarked upon in its closing pages, or if there was a further Act to follw. It matters not a jot that there is a lack of a definitive conclusion - these characters are so well drawn, so easy to identify with across the divides of geography and time, that this remains fresh and telling, and evokes such a response that it is certainly a book I will return to.

I always feel a hallmark of a good book is how clearly it is remembered long after reading. I discussed this book with another reader some months aftre reading it for the first time, and cold still call to mind with minimal effort the pity, the pathos and the anger it evokes. Wonderful.
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VINE VOICEon 27 January 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Post Office Girl was published long after the author had passed away, havin gbeen discovered amongst his papers after his death. It took longer still to be translated into English, but it was worth the wait. Even in translation, this is a thought provoking and emotional read.

Christine comes from a poor family, with just a sick mother whom she supports, and as the title suggests, works in a Post Office. From out of nowhere, a wealthy Aunt discovers her, and invites her to share a luxury lifestyle in America. But it doesn't last - the Aunt dumps her back into obscurity, and Christine struggles to adapt once back into her poor, humdrum former life. She meets Ferdinand, an injured soldier, who is equally bitter about his life, and together they come up with a plan.

The book can be bleak, but it is certainly powerful, and I plan to read more of Stefan Zweig's books.
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on 15 August 2017
Read this for book club. I did enjoy it especially the first half but felt the second half rambled a bit. A good read though.
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