Tag Archives: Friedrich Christian Delius

Portrait of a Mother as a Young Woman – Friedrich Christian Delius

Over the last year one of my missions was to read much more translated work. Well actually it was also to check out how much I read that was translated and wasn’t aware of, for some reason I always think that ‘translated by’ should be on the cover – not the case. One publisher that has helped me in this mini quest is Peirene Press who established themselves this year and whose previous titles ‘Beside The Sea’ and ‘Stone in a Landslide’ I have thoroughly enjoyed, one of them quite possibly heading for a place in my favourite books of the year list. So when the third arrived in the post I was really looking forward to it, yet I put it away for a while, I was nervous – would I like it as much as the first two?

‘Portrait of a Mother as a Young Woman’ sounds intimidating before you start it as the book is one long sentence which instantly filled me with dread. I don’t like it when a book does this for a few pages let alone a whole novella. However whether its down to the original, the editing or the translation (without reading the original in German I would never know – something I always think of when reading translations ‘was it this good originally, was it worse, was it better?’) it was a fear that proved unfounded as there are natural breaks in the pattern of the narrative.

Our protagonist is the woman of the title; we meet her during the war in 1943 as a young pregnant German woman residing in Rome while her husband is in army service in Africa. After doctors orders she is walking through the city from her guest house to the church. Initially she simply observes the city and looks back on how her relationship with Gert started and then starts to worry about the future, will her husband be safe, what world will her unborn child be born into? Normally a woman who believes that the almighty is powering and behind everything, worrying doubts are setting in her mind.

There is little more to the story than the way in which her thoughts progress as she wanders, you are simply privy to the internal workings and machinations of this woman’s thoughts. Yet this is not a book about plot, this is a book about time and place and Delius, through his portrait of this young woman, sets the time, place and surreal atmosphere in a city untouched by war yet very much feeling its effects (such as the coffee shortage – how did Italians cope with that?) now and again and forcing the reality of the situation into peoples minds when sometimes they forget.

The writing is simply stunning. Delius paints a vivid picture and an incredibly believable woman’s narrative voice, though the book isn’t in first person the flow of it and structure of a single sentence makes it feel like subconscious and very natural train of thought. Rome is painted vividly, I have never been and yet now feel I have walked those streets in that time period. In fact I feel I have walked those streets as that woman so vivid is the picture Delius creates.

Is there a downside? Well for me a teeny tiny one and that’s the title, which is actually perfect in terms of saying what the story is about and yet I keep getting it wrong when I talk or tell people about the book. I want to call it ‘The Portrait of the Young Woman as a…’ and then I think ‘no, it’s The Portrait of a Lady as a…’I am slightly worried I will tell people about it and they will grab Henry James or think James Joyce wrote a wonderful book about a young Nazi girl. Oh dear. The title though doesn’t really matter as the contents are so wonderful. (Oh and I must credit Jamie Bulloch on an incredible translation!)

A book that will: be perfect if you want something very different from your usual novella or novel and especially if you want to walk vividly in the footsteps of someone else. 8.5/10

Savidge suggests some perfect prose partners:

Miss Garnet’s Angel by Salley Vickers – The whole way through this book I wanted to head back to this novel, nothing to do with the story line but everything to do with the descriptions of Italy and in a way the mentions and thoughts of religion strangely.
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden – Again nothing to do with the story line or premise of Delius’s book because it’s so unique but another incredible example of a man writing women flawlessly.

Who else has read this book, what did you think? Will any of you be going to see the lovely Kim of Reading Matters in discussion with the author tonight at ‘The Big Green Bookshop’? If you are I may well see you there. Which books have you read that have left you feeling you have actually stepped completely into someone else’s shoes and life despite the fact they are fictional?

Oh and should you want a copy of this of you very own I am giving one away in the post below…

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Filed under Books of 2010, Friedrich Christian Delius, Peirene Press, Review

Book Giveaway – The Portrait of a Mother as a Young Woman by Friedrich Christian Delius

Don’t you just hate it when you are in the middle of a book and you go and leave it somewhere? Well that happened to me last weekend with the latest Peirene Press book which I had wanted to read for an event tonight (see the post above for more details) when I went and promptly left it on my aunties sofa.

The very kind Meike and Maddy at Peirene heard of my plight (via Twitter) and very kindly sent me a second copy which of course means, once Gran has picked it up from my aunties and passes it onto me possibly reading it in between, I have a spare copy and its one that I am giving away world wide…

All you have to do is leave your name in the comments below (I was tempted to make it so you had to share a tale of a time you misplaced a book half way through and what the outcome was but then thought I bet everyone else isn’t as careless – though if you have been do share and make me feel better) before midnight GMT on Wednesday 17th of Sept and you could win it via a random draw – good luck!!!

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Filed under Friedrich Christian Delius, Give Away, Peirene Press

A Night With Novella’s

It seems that the reading impasse might just have passed. A lot of reality TV, some old favourite DVDs and a few new ones and a day out and about in South London seem to have done the trick for tonight, in a little homage to Simon of Stuck In A Books ‘Weekend of Novella’s’ I am now having a ‘Night of Novella’s’ and have pulled some new and old arrivals off the shelves to have a crack at…

  • The Small Hand – Susan Hill
  • The Lonely Londoners – Sam Selvon
  • The Tin Can Tree – Anne Tyler
  • The Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman – Friedrich Christian Delius

I think these titles could just do the trick. Who knows I may binge read until the small hours, ooh I know how to live on a Saturday night don’t I?

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Lastest Incomings & Postal Problems

I thought as I haven’t done one for ages and ages I would do a post on the latest arrivals from some of you and some lovely publishers over the last month and a bit. First though I need share my latest postal drama’s with you. You might remember a while back that I told you how my delightful postman (I like to point him out to visitors when they are staying so they can see just what a miserable so and so he is) was leaving my parcels in the street. Finally he has given up on that front but I was rather worried as some rather important parcels (which I can’t share with you or talk about sadly) hadn’t turned up. So off to the sorting office I marched.

I got there, explained the situation as they know e quite well and they said they would have a look. I then get one of them coming out beaming ‘it’s your lucky day’ they had seven rather large parcels waiting. I was about to leave when I noticed the posted dates, some as far back as last Saturday, so back to the man I go and ask what this is all about. I get a sheepish look before I am told ‘well the thing is, because you get so much post we hold the parcels for a week and then try and deliver it in one go once a week’. I didn’t shout, I didn’t kick off – after all these people do handle my post and I don’t want it vanishing forever as opposed to a few days. I simply and quietly said I would be most appreciative if my postal service could deliver the post that people are paying for at the speed they are paying for it. I then shouted and screamed a bit down the customer complaints phone line. Anyway before I make myself cross again lets get to those parcels, and some that arrived on time, which of course cheered me up no end.

First up a big thank you to you out there who read the blog and then send me emails asking me if I would like a copy of this that or the other that you have spare, want to re-home etc. None of you wanted your names mentioned but I wanted to put you first at least with a picture of your treats as I am very grateful. In the last month you have come up with some real gems such as…

  • Wise Children by Angela Carter – after I loved ‘The Bloody Chamber’
  • Taking The Devils Advice by Anne Fine – as it was mentioned in my Mum’s favourite books
  • The Child Garden & Lust by Geoff Ryan – a kind reader thought after my ‘253’ joy these would be good and one is a very sci-fi look at a future London so that will be interesting
  • Life Before Man by Margaret Atwood – you all know I love an Atwood and this is one of the few not on the TBR
  • Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue – after I loved ‘Room’ a kind reader thought I might like her 1700’s slightly sensational earlier novel

Now onto publishers some who sent a few so I have placed their books separately before a mixed bag or two at the end. First up some more guilty pleasures as Constable and Robinson sent me the latest M.C. Beaton series which they are relaunching this autumn. Cosy Edwardian murder mysteries with a new heroine and some fabulous titles.

The power of social media can bring you some treats sometimes. I tweeted that I had heard Brett Easton Ellis on the Guardian Bookclub podcast (I also heard Sarah Waters this week and it made me like ‘The Little Stranger’ even more which has grown and grown on me) a week or so ago and how listening to him talk made me want to read everyone of his books that I hadn’t, and wasn’t it funny how listening to or seeing authors talk can do that? In the post within a few days came this from Picador…

So now I do have the whole of his works to go through bar the latest as I had only read one of his books before which is the amazing (but possibly a book you don’t read twice) ‘American Psycho’ which If you haven’t read bite the bullet and try.

Vintage Books sent me a mixed bag of unsolicited (which I like as with Vintage they tend to be books that are going to become classics and I never knew I wanted to read – or had heard of – and yet once I see them I do) forthcoming treats containing…

  • The L-Shaped Room by Lynne Reid Banks
  • The Good Angel of Death by Andrey Kurkov
  • Look At The Birdie by Kurt Vonnegut
  • A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks (can you believe I have still never read a Faulks?)

Now for two final mixture of publishers who have sent and who are…

  • Highland Fling by Nancy Mitford (Capuchin Classics) – I will be reading this over the bank holiday weekend
  • The Pantomime Life of Joseph Grimaldi by Andrew McConnel Scott (Canongate Books)
  • Last Night In Twisted River by John Irving (Transworld Books) – another author I can’t believe I haven’t read yet
  • Something Sensational To Read On The Train by Gyles Brandreth (John Murray) I love diaries and these one sound quite salacious and gossipy so I might be dipping in and out of them for the next few months
  • Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman by Friedrich Christian Delius (Peirene Press)
  • Tarr by Wyndham Lewis (Oxford University Press)
  • The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall (Legend Press) winner of the Luke Bitmead Novel Award and being compared to Sophie Hannah

  • The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst (Sceptre) – call me a book cover slut but I do want to read this for the cover alone
  • Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart (Granta)
  • The Death Instinct by Jed Rubenfeld (Headline) – I have started this one because I really liked ‘The Interpretation of Murder’ only thing is I couldn’t remember what happened in that as it was my pre-blogging days – oops. I know I liked it though and so far I havent had to hark back to the last one!
  • Farundell by L.R. Fredericks (John Murray) – I had never head of this one before it thudded through my letter box, however reading the synopsis and seeing thoughts on it here and there I am actually ridiculously excited about reading this one over the weekend
  • The Captain’s Wife by Kirsten McKenzie (John Murray)

Right that’s the lot of lovely loot, it has been a good month or so since I did one hence the mightiness of it. Special thanks again to you the readers who have been sending. So which of these have you heard about, which do you quite fancy and what else have you read by any of the authors and what did you think? Any more tales of postal hell?

Oh and a quick note; none of these books were asked for – I have banned myself from that as have lots in the house – either the publishers contacted me or simply sent them unsolicitied. Just so you all know!

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