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Benneton Book Club Meetup

November's selection will be Rochelle's selection: The Post Office Girl by Stefan Zweig (Austria).

In The Post Office Girl, although the narrative voice is sufficiently impersonal to satisfy even the artistic strictures of a TS Eliot, Zweig certainly addresses directly the "turmoil of his time". The novel is divided into two parts so distinct from each other as to mark a rupture. Also, the abruptness of the ending suggests that the narrative was abandoned rather than completed. It is 1926, and the main character, Christine Hoflehner, in her late 20s, works as a lowly postal clerk in a small Austrian village. She has lost her father and her brother to the war, and lives in poverty with her mortally ill and despairing mother. Christine feels as defeated as her country. As the narrator describes it, the war has ended but poverty has not: "Now it's creeping back out, hollow-eyed, broad-muzzled, hungry and bold, and eating what's left in the gutters of the war."

One day, a telegram arrives from Christine's Aunt Claire inviting her to come to Switzerland for a holiday. Claire had emigrated to America 25 years earlier, after being paid off by the family of a rich Viennese businessman with whom she was conducting a scandalous affair; in New York she married a wealthy cotton merchant, and now she has returned on vacation to Europe and thinks to treat her sister's daughter to a little break from provincial life. Christine puts on her pathetically "best" clothes, packs her straw suitcase, and sets off into the Alps, expecting little, but with much in store.

Zweig captures with tenderness and sharp immediacy the sensuous awakening of a soul long held in hopeless thrall by financial and spiritual poverty.

From The Guardian.


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  • shannon l.

    enjoyed the discussion!

    November 15, 2013

  • Rochelle

    I found this to be a haunting read. Wish I could make it for the discussion. Will have to miss December's meeting as well, but already looking forward to January's.

    November 10, 2013

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