Alice by Judith Hermann

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Alice by Judith Hermann

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: A delicate, moving collection of five short stories that has the feel of a novel since each story has the same central character, Alice. A great read, unless you find yourself overly frustrated in short stories when you don't know exactly what's going on!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 160 Date: August 2011
Publisher: The Clerkenwell Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1846685293

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Alice is a collection of five short stories, linked thematically since they all deal with the subject of death, but they are also linked because the central character, Alice, is the same in each story. So rather than feeling like short stories the book has a hint of the novel to it, yet the stories are never completed or fully told so it's a novel where you're not always sure what's going on.

The theme of death is handled in an interesting way as Judith Hermann looks at all aspects of death - waiting for someone to die, or helping someone who is waiting for someone to die, unexpected sudden deaths, discovering the history of someone who died, or dealing with life after you've lost someone you love. Some moments are a little depressing, which is inevitable with death as the subject I think, but at the same time, the language is very lyrical and emotive, making it beautiful too.

I did find at times that I felt frustrated that they were just short stories. Each time there's a feeling of being given part of Alice's life, but there are never quite enough pieces for you to put the entire puzzle together so you're left wondering about who she really is and what some of these men actually meant to her. In one story she receives a bundle of letters. The entire build-up of the story seems to be revolving around what is contained in these letters, but of course, you never get to find out. I am not very good at not knowing the ending, or having all the information to feel satisfied after reading! But I still enjoyed the book, even if I got a little bit frustrated.

The writing has no speech marks so the text remains uninterrupted. Words and feelings flow together and the writing felt very fluid and smooth, even though it's a book in translation. The text is quite simple, often with lots of short phrases and broken sentences. I felt it made everything very immediate, so it captured and held my attention. Alice is an intriguing character throughout, with moments when you feel you know her and others when you're not sure who she is at all. It's an interesting book, hanging between a fragmented novel and linked short stories. I'd certainly recommend it and found it a quick, enjoyable read.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: If you're looking for another quick read try Last Fling by Sue Gee. You might also like Where Love Begins by Judith Hermann.

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