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I met a charming lady called Meike the other Saturday. She was selling books at the stall outside Budgen's. Meike actually runs a publishing house called Peirene which holds regular book club / coffee morning meetings in Coffee Circus on Every 2nd Monday of the month, 11am-12noon see our events page.
Peirene specialises in transaltions of short modern European books into English and the books are selected by theme. This particular day Meike had brought books to sell and had bundled them up by theme with neatly tied ribbon and was selling them at a discount. Well you can imagine what happened. Charming lady, bit of a bargain, intellectual pretensions (mine) - yes, I got my money out and bought the 'Series of the Female Voice' three book themed set. Meike promised me, in a smiley, light hearted sort of a way, insights onto the female psyche if I read these books, which is quite some promise.
I have now read the first of these books "Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman" by Friedrich Delius Christian. The book's USP is that it has 125 pages but only one full stop, though the one very long sentence is laid out as paragraphs to give the reader some guidance.
The story is very contained in that it follows a young, 8 month pregnant woman as she walks from her hostel to a church where there is to be a concert. Its themes are not contained, in that the woman is a simple, innocent, god-fearing German girl living as an ex-pat in Rome in 1942. Her husband, although almost an invalid, has nevertheless been posted to active service in Africa, within days of her arrival in Rome to be with him. She is a devout protestant.
So I've read the book quite slowly and carefully by my usual slapdash standards and quite in contradiction to the reviewers who suggest a single sitting, rather like watching a film. I'm not sure I've found the insights I was looking for though there are lots of other insights I have found. The book has set me thinking again what would I have done in Hitler's Germany? This simple girl, somewhat lacking in self confidence goes along with it but she does wonder why there is no bread when 'our' side has won so many victories,
I'm not religious but if I were I think I'd be a protestant like our heroine. My God in his infinite wisdom would reward good and punish evil. If I found myself stuck in Rome I'd wonder as she does about the adulation accorded to the Pope, about the idolatrous approach to churches and their fittings, about the ease with which sins can forgiven.
She misses her husband. She wonders when (if?) she will see him again. Is this an insight into the female psyche or would we expect a husband to miss his wife. She misses his willingness to explain to her how to enjoy Roman buiuldings and works of art. This probably is a reminder that men are bold exponents of their own opinions (being from Mars) while women are more willing to listen (being from Venus).
Still and all, I've read it and enjoyed it and still have two left to read.

Tags: Friedrich Delius Christian, Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman

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