Five women in love. And then out of it.
There aren’t going to be happy endings.
Until, the author said, she talked to her daughter, and felt that she had to offer a bit of hope.
Because what a lot of hopeless men there are in this book. And you don’t see the good one for what he is, until he’s gone. Who’d be a straight woman, eh? It doesn’t sound fun. In the only family unit that feels functional, two women balance work children, and parents, together. Still some men manage to mess it up, with the long arms of the state and patriarchy behind them.
That sounds bitter. And there is bitterness, here, a sense that life could, should, have been different. Daniela Krien has captured the perspective of East Germany, where some lost as well as gained with reunification. I read this about the same time as I watched Der Palast/The Palace, which covers some of the same ground, in the same world. But this isn’t set in Berlin – again – but in Leipzig. Another great city that it’s time to explore.
Die Liebe im Ernstfall (Diogenes, the original I read) is Love in Case of Emergency (US). Or, more dramatically, Love in Five Acts (UK, MacLehose Press). Jamie Bulloch’s translation has the same cover image of a woman about to jump in at the deep end. HarperCollins US has quite a chick-lit cover for it, which feels like it belongs to a beach read. Or the story that some of the women in this one look into, hoping for a glimpse of something better, or a way back in. Women whose and careers, children, perfect partners and apartments never arrived, or were gone too soon, or weren’t wanted at all. Who went on, alone. But did they want to? Some translator colleagues felt this made the book far from feminist. Many of us in our book club discussion both loved and hated the characters at certain points. We sometimes wanted to scream at and shake them!
I was very absorbed by their stories, because I am of an age with them, even if many things in my life are not the same.
While reading Die Liebe im Ernstfall, I listened to Alfred Brendel’s interpretation of Schubert’s Wintereise. Both are in the book. Midwinter is a good time to read this. And to trust that the days will get longer, and endings can be different.