This is less of a review and more of a bossy list.
In regards to The Post Office Girl by Stefan Zweig –
DON’T read the jacket blurb (it gives too much away). Instead, all you need to know is this: The story is set in provincial Austria just after the World War I and is about a post-office worker, Christine. She looks after her ailing mother and leads a grim, poor life. Then comes an unexpected invitation – her rich aunt, who lives in America, writes requesting that Christine holiday with her and her husband at a Swiss Alpine resort. At the resort, Christine glimpses a life of luxury and privilege that astounds her. But Christine’s aunt drops her as abruptly as she picked her up, and soon the young woman is back at the post office, consumed with disappointment and bitterness.
DO read it, particularly if you’re taking part in a translation reading challenge or one that involves books set in different countries (it ticks the box for Switzerland and Austria).
DO expect to be cheering for some characters and booing others. It’s like a pantomime on a page.
DON’T do any pre-book author research if you know nothing about Zweig.
DO do some post-book research about Zweig and The Post Office Girl. And then say Oh. My. God.
DO savour Zweig’s very fine writing – his style may seem plain and utilitarian but there is exceptional richness there and characters that get under your skin.
“There’s an inherent limit to the stress that any material can bear. Water has its boiling point, metals their melting points. The elements of the spirit behave the same way. Happiness can reach a pitch so great that any further happiness can’t be felt. Pain, despair, humiliation, disgust, and fear are no different. Once the vessel is full, the world can’t add to it.”
4/5 An unexpected gem.
I’ll pour myself a schnapps (preferably in one of these very pleasing schnapps glasses) and start browsing Zweig’s catalogue of work.