Rivka Galchen – Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch

Rivka Galchen – Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch

Even though the Middle Ages are over, superstition and strange beliefs are still widespread among people. Thus, in 1615, Katharina Kepler finds herself accused of witchcraft by the people of her hometown of Leonberg in southern Germany. Times are hard, the Plague is spreading the Thirty Years’ War has just begun and somebody must be blamed for all the things happening. Katharina is an elderly widow, illiterate and mother of the astronomer Johannes Kepler. She leads a simple life, attending to her cow Chamomile. One day, however, Ursula Reinbold, accuses her of witchcraft, having offered a bitter drink which allegedly poisoned her, and surprisingly, the court not only listens but more and more people come forwards with testimonies of Katharina’s ill-doing. Only her neighbour, old Simon, who prefers to keep to himself, stands by her side.

Rivka Galchen’s story is based on a true story, Johannes Kepler’s mother was a healer and herbalist and arrested for witchcraft. The famous son stopped his research in planetary motion to defend his mother. Not only Katharina became victim of this kind of accusation, the town’s advocate Lutherus Einhorn accused 15 women in one trial and had executed eight of them in 1615.

At first, Katharina doesn’t take the accusation seriously, it is just talk for her, until she is put to prison and has to learn that more and more people come forward with other stories which seem to underline her doing black magic. She tries to counter the attack by accusing Ursula and her husband of slander, yet, her own case vanishes somewhere in the depth of local jurisprudence.

“We all know she’s a witch. We’ve always know. The matter of how we came to know is simple – we already knew.”

The accusations brought forward rage from poisoning, causing lameness, several deaths, injuring a woman’s foot, harming numerous people and animals – a long list which is getting more and more absurd during the story. I liked the interrogations of the inhabitants since they show not only the superstition they fall prey to, but also the dynamics of a small town which turns against one woman. Everything ill that has ever happened is simply attributed to Katharina. The allegations are so ridiculous that you could laugh weren’t it for Katharina’s case and the fact that the people’s testimonies seem to be believed.

Even though the plot is based on a well-documented historical case, you can see more or less the same thing happening today. It is not the small town anymore, but the world wide web in which often just one single person brings forward an accusation – no need for proof anymore – and masses jump on the bandwagon and have their twitter trial even before the issue is sorted out. It doesn’t matter if the accused is later discharged or not, the only thing that counts is public opinion which is quick at passing a sentence.

An entertaining read which outlines the dark sides of human nature – envy, greed, malicious gossip – and the danger that might come from it.

Violette Leduc – Thérèse und Isabelle

Anfang der 1950er Jahre in einem katholischen Mädcheninternat in Frankreich. Isabelle ist die beste Schülerin, die alle bewundern, die neue Schülerin Thérèse ist die Tochter einer alleinerziehenden Mutter, die zum Zielobjekt ihres Hasses wird. Doch die anfängliche Abneigung der beiden gegeneinander wandelt sich und wird zu einer leidenschaftlichen Liebesbeziehung. Nachts im Schlafsaal, wenn alle anderen in ihre Träume versunken sind, geben sie sich ihren Gefühlen hin und entdecken die Liebe, die nicht sein darf. Nicht bei Minderjährigen, nicht bei zwei jungen Frauen und gleich dreimal nicht im Internat. Immerzu drohen sie aufzufliegen und Thérèses intensive Abhängigkeit macht es bald unmöglich für sie, einen Schultag zu durchzustehen.

Auch wenn Violette Leducs Schilderung der unerlaubten Liebe voller versierter Sprachbilder ist und die Emotionen der Mädchen, das überwältigende Gefühl der ersten echten Liebe, die erwidert wird, minutiös einfängt, sind es doch mehr noch die Umstände der Entstehung und die Geschichte der Novelle, die daran faszinieren.

Die Autorin verfasste „Thérèse und Isabelle“ als ersten von drei Teilen ihres Romans „Ravages“, der drei autobiografisch geprägte Liebesepisoden schildert. Von Simone de Beauvoir unterstützt, die das Potenzial der Geschichte und Leducs erkannte, wurde er verschiedenen Verlegern vorgelegt, die jedoch 1954 alle Angst vor der Zensur hatten und wussten, dass die Zeit für eine so offene Schilderung gleichgeschlechtlicher Liebe noch nicht gekommen war. Es erschienen erst viel später redigierte Fassungen, bis 2000 Gallimard erstmals die ursprüngliche Version als Einzelband herausgab.

Violette Leduc wollte keinen Skandal provozieren, sie schildert einfach nur das Erleben großer Leidenschaft in völlig unschuldiger Form. Es ist für Leser von heute kaum mehr nachvollziehbar, was an dem Text anstößig sein soll, ja, er ist explizit, aber in einer poetischen Weise und nicht plump wie das, was einem tagtäglich online entgegenspringt. Auch das die Protagonistinnen zwei junge Frauen sind, die ihre Zuneigung ausleben, sollte hoffentlich niemanden mehr schockieren. Der Roman ist nicht pornografisch oder voyeuristisch, sondern wirkt geradezu naiv in Thérèses Faszination von Isabelle. Es ist schlicht das Zeugnis einer verbotenen Liebe, die sich dennoch ihren Weg bahnt.

Marie Aubert – Grown Ups

Marie Aubert – Grown Ups

Sisters Ida and Marthe have planned to spend some days together at their cabin close to the sea where they will be joined by their mother and her partner. Ida is reluctant to go there, with her 40th birthday only a couple of weeks ago and still no father for prospective children in view, she knows that her window of becoming a mother is getting closer and closer. This is why she decided to freeze some of her eggs. Yet, it does not hinder her from negative feelings towards Marthe who, now pregnant and stepmother of beautiful 6-year-old Olea, seems – as always – to get everything she wants. Hard feelings accompany Ida and slowly turn their holiday together into a catastrophe.

I totally enjoyed Marie Aubert’s novel as I could easily sympathise with her narrator and protagonist. Additionally, there is some fine irony and humour in the text which make it a great read. The relationship between sisters quite often is all but easy and even as grown-ups, hard feelings and emotional injuries from the childhood can sit deep and hinder them from ever having a healthy bond.

Ida obviously is envious, her sister not only has a living husband but also a lovely stepdaughter and she’s pregnant. Even though Ida is a successful architect, she has never managed to establish a functioning relationship with a partner and feels lonely and somehow failed in life. Always being second, this is how she has grown up, no matter which achievements she reached, there was always Marthe who was ill and thus spoilt those rare moments of joy for Ida. Their mother does not seem to be aware of the difference she makes between the girls – yet, one has also to take into account that we only get Ida’s point of view which quite naturally is not only limited but highly biased.

“It’s not right That it should be so easy for others and so hard for me, I don’t get it, if there’s some sort of formula, a code that others know about, one they’ve known since they were young but which I’ve never quite grasped.”

Ida gets worked up about her sister and is willing to destroy her sister’s life when she is drunk one evening. This is rather tragic to observe and Ida turns into a pitiable character who does not realise that she will be even lonelier if she loses these last persons around her. She is aware of this but cannot act differently.

Marie Aubert’s debut is elegantly narrated, yet, the story leaves you with mixed feelings. It is joyful at times but the dysfunctional family is also an emotional challenge.

Zakiya Dalila Harris – The Other Black Girl

Zakiya Dalila Harris – The Other Black Girl

Nella Rogers has achieved what she could only dream of, at 26 she is editorial assistant at one of the most prestigious publishing houses. The only thing she has been struggling with the last two years is how the idea of diversity has never entered her workplace, after the Asian girl left, she is the only person with a different background. Things change when unexpectedly Hazel is employed and gets the cubicle next to her. Nella senses immediately that with another black girl, they might finally make a change in publishing, promote more diverse authors and bring forward new topics relevant to a large audience which wasn’t addressed so far. However, it does not take too long until Nella’s work life starts to go downhill.

Zakiya Dalila Harris’ debut novel has been called one of the buzz books of 2021 by several magazines. I was intrigued by the blurb immediately, a kind of horror version of “The Devil Wars Prada” sounded totally enthralling. For a long time, “The Other Black Girl” could fulfil the expectations, there is a highly uncomfortable feeling creeping around, yet, the end was a bit too much for my liking.

Nella is quite a likeable young woman, hardworking and even though not an activist she is following the Black Lives Matter movement even before this becomes a widespread phenomenon and big news. She imagines being able of making a change in the publishing industry but first needs to get at the position where she has the actual power to do so. Therefore, she is quite assimilated and she swallows comments from her colleagues even though they might be quite offensive for persons of colour. With the arrival of Hazel she seems to get an ally and befriends her immediately.

For the reader, even though there are some chapters which seems unrelated to Nella’s story but hint at some goings-ons beyond her scope, it is obvious that Hazel is not the friendly and reliable colleague Nella assumes, this was an aspect which annoyed me a bit, I didn’t get the impression of Nelly being that naive and credulous at first and would have liked her to be a bit cleverer in relation to what happens at her workplace.

The novel, however, is quite strong at portraying Nella’s feelings as being the only black girl, the role she assigned to as representative of a totally diverse group which is just too simplistic, yet, nobody really seems to care about the concept of diversity, having one black girl is enough. She has other issues than her colleagues, especially the talk about hair was quite a novelty, even though this is a huge topic if you do not have the easy-care blond hair.

Overall, I liked the writing and found Nella’s perspective and the insight in the publishing world interestingly realised.

Constantin Schreiber – Die Kandidatin

Constantin Schreiber – Die Kandidatin

Deutschland in naher Zukunft. Die Bundestagswahl steht an und größte Chancen auf den Sieg hat die Ökologische Partei. Nicht jedoch, weil die Klimakrise sich weiter verschärft hat, sondern wegen der Spitzenkandidatin Sabah Hussein. Sie repräsentiert das neue, diverse Deutschland: eingewanderte Muslimin, Feministin und Ikone der Minderheiten, die das Land radikal verändern will. Doch es gibt auch Strömungen gegen sie, all jene, die Jahrhunderte lang privilegiert waren und nun wegen neuer Gesetze plötzlich auf der anderen Seite stehen. Nicht nur die alten weißen Männer, auch die deutschen Frauen, die ohne Vielfältigkeitsmerkmal keine Chance mehr haben. Es bleibt ihnen die radikale Abschottung oder der Kampf gegen die omnipräsente Kanzlerkandidatin, der man scheinbar auch alle Fehltritte verzeiht.

Constantin Schreiber ist Tagesschau-Sprecher und gilt als Nahost Experte, dessen Sachbücher bereits Bestseller wurden und der für seine Talkshow „Marhaba – Ankommen in Deutschland“ den Grimme Preis erhielt. Er setzt sich für den interkulturellen Austausch ein, weshalb es nicht verwundert, dass er in seinem ersten Roman „Die Kandidatin“ den Finger in genau diese Wunde legt. Seine Protagonistin polarisiert und verkörpert vieles von dem, was weite Teile der aktuellen Twitter-Bubble als Hass-Objekt Nummer 1 ansieht. Dass ausgerechnet so eine Figur die besten Aussichten auf den mächtigsten Posten im Land haben soll, muss Widerstand hervorrufen.

„Sie selbst ist Sinnbild dieser Spaltung, einer Polarisierung, die keine Kompromisse zulässt. Entweder man ist für Sabah Hussein und für all das, wofür sie steht, Weltoffenheit, Diversität, Anitkapitalismus, Feminismus, Antirassismus. Oder man ist dagegen.“

Zwei zentrale Aspekte treibt Schreiber in seinem Roman auf die Spitze: zum einen natürlich die Figur Sabah Hussein, zum anderen das neue Deutschland. Progressiv ist nur, wer geschlechterneutrale Kleidung trägt, die alle Körperformen kaschiert, die Regierung hat eine Matrix erlassen, mittels derer für jeden Bürger sein Diskriminierungsgrad errechnet und im Ausweis vermerkt wird, neue Bezeichnungen, Steuern und Quotenregelungen sollen die vorhandenen Privilegien abschaffen. Der klassische Journalismus hat ausgedient, Blogger und YouTuber versorgen ihre Zielgruppen schon mit vorgefertigten Meinungen. Die Deutschlandflagge wird zunehmend durch die Diversitätsfahne, die Nationalhymne durch einen Toleranzsong ersetzt. So manches kommt einem da durchaus bekannt vor, nur ist das Land nun schon einen Schritt weiter.

Sabah Hussein hat schnell verstanden, wie sie sich inszenieren muss, wie sie ihre Gefolgschaft mobilisieren und nach und nach im Politzirkel aufsteigen kann. Sie zeigt sie richtige Haltung, Betroffenheit, wenn jemand nicht-inklusive Sprache verwendet und macht sich durch Omnipräsenz in sozialen Medien mit passenden Bildern zur Ikone der Benachteiligten. Weder ihre Cartier Uhr, noch die teuren Urlaube und die Straftaten ihres Bruders können der praktizierenden Muslimin etwas anhaben. Das perfekte Bild in der Öffentlichkeit wird jedoch für den Leser bisweilen aufgebrochen, sie scheint eine zweite Agenda zu haben, genau jene, die ihre Gegner ihr unterstellen und die sie beharrlich leugnet. So lange sie nicht wirklich an der Macht ist, spielt sie das notwendige Spiel mit, dann wird sie jedoch die Spielregeln neu bestimmen.

Der Roman ist politisch und aktuell, jedoch schwer zu greifen in seiner Absicht. Es wirkt vieles überzogen und absurd, womit man sich schon die Frage stellt, inwieweit aktuelle Tendenzen zu beispielsweise inklusiver Sprache nicht schon fast parodiert werden. Auch ist die Protagonistin in vielerlei Hinsicht eher stereotyp und die noch leisen Nebentöne scheinen die Angst vor der muslimischen Unterwanderung eher noch zu befeuern als jetzt schon vorhandene Gräben zu verringern.

Die Geschichte provoziert – eines meiner Highlights: die Präsident-Erdogan-Schule, die dem türkischen Diktator huldigt – aber sie bleibt hinter anderen verstörenden Romanen, die auf gesellschaftliche und politische Fehlentwicklungen anspielen – Huxleys „1984“, Houellebecqs „Unterwerfung“ – deutlich zurück. Nichtsdestotrotz unterhaltsam zu lesen und durchaus ein interessantes Gedankenexperiment.

Taylor Jenkins Reid – Malibu Rising

Taylor Jenkins Reid – Malibu Rising

It started out as a love story, but Mick Riva wasn’t made for loving only one woman, he was first of all made for a career in the music business and that’s what he did. His wife June though was made for loving but since her husband was absent, she only had to love her kids. The first born Nina, and the second, Jay, and the third who wasn’t her kid at all but she couldn’t just turn her back on Mick’s son Hud who was abandoned by his mother. And last but not least Kit, born long after her parents’ relationship had already fractured several times. While Mick was away, June took care of the kids until she couldn’t anymore, then quite naturally, Nina took over. Now, as a successful model, she is preparing for the legendary annual Riva party in her home in Malibu. Even though they have been having this party for many years, this year will be different and at the end of the night, nothing will be the same anymore for any of the Riva family.

I totally adored Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel “Daisy Jones & The Six“ which was totally lively and got be hooked from the first page. He latest book “Malibu Rising” had exactly the same effect. Her protagonist Nina, whose day of the big party is told alternatingly with the family’s story, is a strong character in a very special way. Her most striking feature surely is to take over responsibility and to do what needs to be done while totally forgetting that she, too, has the right to live. But instead of thinking about herself, she simply cares for the people around her, especially her younger siblings.

While everybody is preparing for the party, the biggest event every summer which is not to be missed by anybody important, Nina strikes a balance of her life so far. She made the maximum of the rather poor baseline. She has become one of the most demanded sports models, idolised by masses of people, her younger brothers are just starting their careers and also the baby of the family is going to fledge the family nest and to make herself noticed and a name. Their father has only ever existed at the edge of their life, it was their mother June who put herself last to make her children feel loved and have a good life despite all the adversities. Now, however, seems to be the moment for a big change.

Another set of unforgettable characters who know what is important in life and underline that there is nothing that will bring you down as long as you’ve got the ones who love you around. Even though nothing could be further from my life than surfing, I liked the passages where the author describes how the kids feel in the water and how surfing provides them with an unknown feeling of freedom.

The perfect summer read which is not at all the light feel-good novel but much rather a great story simply to indulge in.

Friedrich Ani – Letzte Ehre

Friedrich Ani – Letzte Ehre

Fariza Nasri ist eine der besten Kommissarinnen, denn sie bringt die Menschen zu reden. Sie hört ihnen zu, gibt ihnen das Gefühl, dass sie sich bei ihr endlich alles von der Seele reden können. Nach dem Verschwinden der 17-jährigen Finja stecken die Ermittlungen fest, die Polizisten sind sich jedoch sicher, dass Stephan Barig, der Freund der Mutter, etwas damit zu tun hat. Langsam nähert sich die Oberkommissarin der Wahrheit. Sie hört Dinge, die sie nicht hören will, sich aber anhören muss und findet in dem Netz, das sie langsam webt, weitere Spuren zu einem ganz anderen Verbrechen und auch da ist sie es wieder, der das Herz ausgeschüttet wird und die die Last der Mörder auf sich nehmen muss. Dabei trägt sie auch ihre eigene Last, denn auf welcher Seite des Tisches im Befragungsraum Täter sitzen, verwischt ebenso wie die Vorstellung von Täter und Opfer.

Schon seit vielen Jahren ist Friedrich Ani eine feste Größe im deutschen Literaturbetrieb, mehrfach mit dem Deutschen Krimi Preis und anderen Ehrungen ausgezeichnet, hat er sich daneben auch als Drehbuchautor für Filme und Hörspiele einen Namen gemacht. Immer wieder erschafft er dabei ungewöhnliche Ermittler, die sich in keine Schublade pressen lassen, allen voran Tabor Süden. In „Letzte Ehre“ macht er eine Frau zur Protagonistin und wieder handelt es sich um einen Charakter, der aneckt, heraussticht, aber über genau jene speziellen Fähigkeiten verfügt, die letztlich zum Ermittlungserfolg führen.

Fariza Nasri spielt nicht guter Bulle/böser Bulle, sie konfrontiert ihre Gegenüber nicht mit Fakten, unterstellt ihnen nichts. Sie hört zu, gibt ihnen das Gefühl zu ersten Mal im Leben frei erzählen zu können. Sie haben keine Angst vor ihr, glauben sich ihr anvertrauen zu können und ahnen nicht, wie sie jedes Detail einsaugt, bis sie genug gehört hat, um zum Schlag auszuholen. So beherrscht sie in den Gesprächen ist, so emotional wird sie, als ihre Freundin überfallen und brutal misshandelt wird. Es gibt auch eine andere Seite der scheinbar völlig kontrollierten Frau, jene, die sie gut verbirgt, die ihr aber schon einmal zum Verhängnis wurde.

Neben seiner ungewöhnlichen Protagonistin besticht der Roman jedoch noch viel mehr durch die clevere Anlage gleich mehrerer Mordfälle, die so reibungslos ineinanderfließen, als wäre es geradezu zwingend von einem zum nächsten zu kommen. Spannend auch die Frage nach Schuld, Nasri kümmert sich nicht um die Emotionen der Täter, sie blickt dahinter und findet komplexe Geflechte, die, genau wie in ihrem eigenen Fall, die scheinbar so eindeutigen Grenzen der wohlgeordneten Welt verwischen.

Auch wenn viel gemordet und ermittelt wird, ein klassischer Krimi ist „Letzte Ehre“ so gar nicht. Es ist viel mehr der Blick in den Abgrund der menschlichen Psyche, der all das an die Oberfläche spült, was lange gut versteckt war, weil es hässlich und schlicht böse ist.

Phoebe Wynne – Madam

Phoebe Wynne – Madam

Rose Christie cannot believe it when she is offered a job at the prestigious boarding school Caldonbrae Hall, set on a recluse peninsula above the Scottish cliffs. They haven’t hired new staff for more than a decade and the Classics teacher is a lot younger than her colleagues, much closer in age to her students. School does not only cater for her, but also for her mother whose health is deteriorating and who thus can get the best medical care. The rules at the institution are strict and not easy for Rose to figure out, too different is her new work place from the schools she worked before. Yet, she soon gets the feeling that what is advertised as tradition is much more an overcome idea of the world in which women are reduced to being pretty and just longing for being married. Only in her classroom can she talk about the female heroines of the ancient world that have always fascinated her – yet, this is not a way of thinking which is tolerated there and soon Rose finds herself deep in trouble.

Phoebe Wynne’s debut novel “Madam” combines the classic boarding school novel with elements of Gothic fiction and also classic literature. She sets the story at the beginning of the 1990s thus offering a world without the world wide web when it was still possible to keep young women secluded from the outside and thus possible to control what they have access to. Free spirits just like Rose, taking feminist standpoints, were not part of the school’s personnel and it becomes quickly obvious why.

At the first glance, Caldonbrae Hall is a highly admired and impressive institution. The girls come from the noblest families and seem to be well-educated in their manners. Yet, Rose soon detects that there is also something lacking, an aspects she considers crucial in her teaching: free thinking. The pupils all seem to follow are a very limited view of the world and do not develop any aspiration for themselves. Most astonishingly, it seems as if they are happy with the choices that are made for them.

The Gothic novel elements – the virginal maidens, the castle like school with its old walls, a threat which is difficult to locate, the gloomy weather with frequent storms, people hiding crucial information, and most of all, the story of some girl’s mysterious death the year before – all contribute to an unsettling atmosphere which can be felt throughout the novel. Rose quickly realises that she needs to flee but is successfully kept from doing so.

Rose’s heroines, the stories of ancient goddesses and nymphs like Daphne, Antigone, Dido or Lucretia, are wonderfully integrated into the novel and a stark contrast to the girls’ views. This is what I liked most about the novel since it nonchalantly underlines that you still can learn something from these old stories and find role models even though times have changed a lot.

A novel I totally enjoyed indulging in which combines classic literature with a bit of mystery.

Vendela Vida – We Run the Tides

Vendela Vida – We Run the Tides

It’s the middle of the 80s and San Francisco hasn’t turned into the tech/IT hotspot it is today. Teenager Eulabee grows up in a more well-off part close to the beach and attends an expensive all-girls school with her best friends Maria Fabiola. The girls are still somewhere between being kids and becoming visibly female and with this transformation also come the problems. Maria Fabiola is the first to attract attention from the opposite sex, but her radiant appearance also charms women which is why she gets away with almost everything. Eulabee is far from being that self-confident and therefore sticks to the truth what leads to her being excluded from the girl circles of her school. When Maria Fabiola vanishes, the whole community is alarmed, but Eulabee from the start does not believe in a kidnapping, she has known Maria Fabiola for too long and is well aware of her former friend’s greed for attention.

Vendela Vida still isn’t as renowned as her husband Dave Eggers even though she has published several books by now and has won the Kate Chopin Award. I found her last novel “The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty” quite exceptional in the choice of perspective and therefore was eager to read her latest novel “We Run the Tides”. This time, she goes back in time and has chosen teenage girls as protagonists. The story is told from Eulabee’s perspective and captures well the mixed emotions a girl goes through when becoming a woman. Also the ambiance of the 1980s is convincingly depicted.

The most central aspect of the novel is surely the friendship between Eulabee and Maria Fabiola and its shift when one of the girls develops a bit quicker than the other. Maria Fabiola is well aware of the effect she has on other people and uses this for her own advantage. Eulabee, in contrast, is still much more a girl, insecure in how to behave and what to do about the situation. She does not fight but accept what’s happening. Her first attempts of approaching boys seem to be successful but end up in total disappointment. She is a close observer and can well interpret the relationships she sees, between her parents, her mother and her sister and also the other girls and teachers at her school. Without any doubt she is a likeable character and treated highly unfairly. But that’s how kids behave at times.

I liked how the plot developed and how the vanishing of the girls turned out quite unexpectedly. Yet, I didn’t fully understand why the author has chosen to add another chapter set in the present. For me, the story was perfectly told at a certain point and admittedly, neither was I really interested in Eulabee’s later life nor in another encounter of the two women as grown-ups. Still, I do not really know what to make of Maria Fabiola when they meet for the first time decades later.

To sum up, wonderfully narrated, a great coming-of-age story with a strong protagonist.

Simon Han – Nights When Nothing Happened

Simon Han – NIghts When Nothing Happened

The Changs live an inconspicuous life in Plano, Texas, Patty, the mother has a demanding job in the tech industry, Liang, the father looks more after the house and their two kids Jack and Annabel. Despite their Chinese background, they assimilate and fit in quite well until misunderstanding sets in motion a chain of events which throws the already fragile family equilibrium totally out of balance.

Simon Han’s novel “Nights When Nothing Happened” tackle different tricky topics such as moving to another country and trying to fit in, finding your identity when you grow up between different cultures, trying to make a living and having a family at the same time and, most of all, dealing with the fragile psyche of a child. Each chapter provides the reader with the perspective of another family member thus underlining that even though you might belong to the same family, there are always things left unsaid because they are unutterable or because you cannot find the words to express yourself, in the case of the children in the novel: because they are too afraid of saying or doing something wrong.

It wasn’t easy for me to sympathise with the characters, they were too far away from my life and unfortunately the novel, though wonderfully narrated, couldn’t bring them closer. Understanding their individual struggles and fears though was easy due to the insight in the characters’ thoughts. Many noteworthy aspects and without any doubt interesting characters, yet, somehow the novel did not really move me.