Tag Archives: Letti Park

Letti Park by Judith Hermann (transl. Margot Bettauer Dembo): Quiet and thoughtful elegance

Cover imageThis is the third book I’ve read by Judith Hermann. Like Alice, the first, Letti Park is a collection of short stories comprising seventeen pieces, some just a few pages long. All three books are characterised by the delicacy of their writing but unlike the stories in Alice which are linked by the theme of loss and grief, these stories don’t lend themselves to easy analysis which is not to say they fall short in comparison, just that they’re harder to describe.

Hermann’s collection ranges from a group of people storing a delivery of coal, wondering about the precocious motherless four-year-old who arrives on his bicycle, to a daughter reluctantly visiting her father caught up in his own mental illness and unable to express an appreciation of her thoughtfulness, to a woman whose relationship with the therapist a friend has recommended long outlasts the friendship. In ‘Some Memories’ a lodger is disquieted by her elderly landlady’s tale of a long ago swimming accident on the eve of her holiday, worried about her landlady’s decline  A woman catches a frightening glimpse of another world when on a holiday her partner has advised against in ‘The East’. In ‘Mother’ a woman takes on the duties of a daughter when her best friend dies prematurely and becomes part of a distant family much to her children’s annoyance.

These are not stories in which a great deal happens. Memories are examined, epiphanies are experienced, encounters with strangers or people from characters’ pasts quietly change lives. Much is left unsaid, leaving the reader to draw their own conclusions: a man mentions video footage of a trip taken with a friend; a woman observes the controlling behaviour of the partner of someone who was once lively and in charge of their life. All this is expressed in elegantly understated prose: The champagne is ice-cold, and for Ada it turns the afternoon into something that hurts behind the ears, hurts in certain places in her body where, she suspects, happiness is hiding. This is a fine collection, thoughtful and thought-provoking. It’s one that I’d been looking forward to very much and it didn’t disappoint.

Books to Look Out for in February 2018: Part Two

Cover imageThe second batch of February’s new titles is something of a mixed bag. I’ll begin with Tyler Keevil’s No Good Brother which sounds like a slice of adventure. Two brothers – one honest, the other not – set off on a journey to settle a debt with a notorious gang which will take them across land and sea dogged by customs officials, freak storms and a distinct sense of luck running out. ‘Quick-witted and beautifully observed, No Good Brother is an exquisite portrait of brotherly love and loyalty, examining the loss of innocence and the ties that bind us’ say the publishers. An uncharacteristic choice for me but the blurb’s put me in mind of Patrick deWitt’s wonderful The Sisters Brothers.

Joseph Cassara’s The House of Impossible Beauties sounds altogether different. Set in New York City from the late ‘70s to the early ‘90s with AIDS on the horizon, the novel was inspired by the House of Xtravaganza and follows a group of gay and transgender young adults around the drag ball scene. Apparently, it was inspired by the documentary ‘Paris is Burning’ which I haven’t seen but the book sounds right up my alley.

I’m not so sure about Jessie Greengrass’ Sight but her short story collection, An Account of the Cover imageDecline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It, was so highly rated that it seems worth investigating. It follows a woman through her preparations for motherhood as she remembers the death of her own mother and the time she spent with her psychoanalyst grandmother. Significant medical discoveries are woven through her memories, apparently. ‘Wonderfully intelligent, brilliantly written and deeply moving, Sight is a novel about how we see others, and how we might know ourselves’ say the publishers.

This next one comes garlanded with praise from Margaret Atwood, no less. Katherena Vermette’s The Break tackles the tricky subject of female violence. A young mother living close by the eponymous strip of land on the edge of a Canadian town spots a girl in trouble and calls the police but when they turn up, they can find nothing. Their investigation reveals a string of wrenching stories about the people surrounding the girl. ‘Through the prism of one extended, intergenerational family, Vermette’s urgent story shines a light on the power, violence and love shared between women of all cultures, creeds and age’ say the publishers Cover imagewhich sounds very ambitious but Naomi over at Consumed by Ink, whose opinion I trust, was hugely impressed as you can see from this review.

I’m ending February’s new titles on a gentler note with an author whose previous work I’ve enjoyed very much. Judith Hermann’s Letti Park is a collection which explore the way in which random encounters with strangers can change our lives profoundly. Both Hermann’s novel Where Love Begins and Alice, her set of interlinked short stories, are fine examples of subtle, quietly effective writing so hopes are high.

That’s it for February. A click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis, and if you’d like to catch up with the first part of the preview it’s here. Paperbacks to follow soon…