Monday 6 September 2010

Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman by Friedrich Christian Delius

"Thought provoking, well designed, short".
review by Maryom

A young German woman, 8 months pregnant with her first child, walks through Rome one sunny afternoon in January 1943 to listen to a musical recital at a church. Is that really it? Well, obviously not.

"Thought provoking, well designed, short", says the slogan on the Peirene catalogue, and this little book most certainly is. In 125 pages we become fully acquainted with this young country girl from Mecklenburg, now living in Rome, frightened at the size and splendour of it, after being left here while her husband has been transferred to N Africa.

In the course of her stroll, her thoughts wander between the past, present and future - the distant pre-war time without bombings and rationing, her fears for her husband at the front and her family suffering from constant air-raids in Germany, her hopes for a quick end to the war and a happy country environment in which to bring up her child.
She travels across the city almost like an explorer. There are safe places of refuge - the hospital run by German nuns where she lives, the church she is going to - but between lies the alien, uncharted city full of incomprehensible Italians. She seems a rather naive, docile young woman, guided first by her father and now by her husband in what she should think and do - it's hard to imagine a young woman of today deferring to others' opinions in the same way. Yet at the same time, she's starting to gain independence, impressing herself with her ability to venture out into this strange city, alone, without a male protector and guide.
So, does it live up to the slogan - most definitely! I'm tempted to liken this to Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway but I've found that likening anything to Virginia Woolf tends to put readers off rather than encourage them. Is it merely the story of one young woman or of a whole generation of people? That's for you to decide but, whichever, it's an excellent book - do read it!

Translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Peirene Press

Genre - Adult Literary Fiction

1 comment:

  1. Hi Mary
    Thanks for the kind comment on my site. You're too modest, though - I don't think I expressed things any better than this! Love the Virginia Woolf comparison - something I hadn't thought of when reading the book, but it makes a lot of sense.