35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Product of a master craftsman...,
This review is from: The Post Office Girl (Paperback)
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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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Initial post: 8 Apr 2012 09:25:34 BDT
V. R. Bell says:
I agree with the analysis. But I am more critical of the novel. I devoured Stefan Zweig's books when I was young, but this one left me disappointed. I understand where the author is coming from, having lost his prewar life in Vienna, particularly in the 30's with the rize of Nazism. However, one is not in very good company with Christine. She seems totally absorbed by her situation, which in those days where shared by many. She does so to an extent that she forgets her mother who has sacrificed herself for her. She doesn't show any kind of gratitude either to her aunt and uncle when they treat her to the most fabulous experience of her life. Afterwards the only thing Christine and later Ferdinand can do is complain. A big question mark should of course be posed when it comes the morality of the ending. The book leaves you with the feeling of having spent time with some very egoistic people with no regard for others.
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