Nowhere Ending Sky by Marlen Haushofer

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Nowhere Ending Sky by Marlen Haushofer

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: A novel that gently but effectively grabs the attention as we see the world through the eyes of a little girl growing up in 1920s and 30s Austria. A charming story with more lurking beneath the surface for those who like to delve.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 184 Date: June 2013
Publisher: Quartet Books
ISBN: 978-0704373136

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Little Meta is growing up in a childhood paradise with two parents who love her and a younger brother to tease and train to do all the things that Meta wants him to. However, the world outside Meta's paradise will soon change beyond all recognition as the Austria and Germany of the 1920s makes way for the Austria and Germany of the 1930s.

Award-winning feminist author Marlen Haushofer was herself born in Austria in 1920, dying tragically from cancer aged only 49. Interestingly her third novel The Wall was her first to be translated into English, an allegorical tale about a woman waking to find herself alone in the world. Nowhere Ending Sky although its central character is also female, has more of the everyday about it, grabbing hold of us from the first page as Meta thinks to us from inside a barrel. (All is wonderfully explained!)

The whole world is interpreted through Meta's eyes therefore the whole world doesn't extend that far in adult terms. However, the environment around Meta's home is effectively Meta's whole universe when it's seen via the mind of an innocent.

Both our heroine and her baby brother Nandi are surrounded by love as their father works as a forester/gamekeeper and mother cooks for the quirky extended family and hunting guests that pass in and out of Meta's periphery. It's also a snapshot of its time enabling us to smile or bristle (depending on your personal ethos) as mother insists on only feeding the men meat at suppertime. Meanwhile, at night the house is haunted by under-the-bed type monsters that vanish on contact with daylight.

The novel is utterly enchanting as Marlen effortlessly and convincingly shows us Meta's psyche and her outlook as they slowly change with age. Although not a lot seems to happen in the epic adventure sense, there's never a dull moment with little ones, as any parent will confirm.

The outside world as we would recognise it still encroaches on the forest from time to time. Meta's father still has nightmares from his time at the front during World War I and her mother, even when hot from cooking, is continually pale. The children don't recognise these occurrences for what they are, neither do they see the connotations behind their observations but we, the outside world looking in, understand and worry on their behalf.

Is this novel as allegorical as The Wall? I've been unable to find confirmation on the internet but I suspect it is. My untrained hunch favours the idea that Meta's life within the book's covers echoes that of Austria (and indeed Germany). She's journeying from idyllic unawareness towards the still distant loss of innocence as she's unable to interpret and utilise signs from, what was then, fairly recent history. I'll leave you to judge how accurate my assumptions may be. In the end, the important factor is that, with or without the possible deeper meanings, this is a charming story that deserves the wider audience it's receiving at last.

If you've enjoyed this and would like to travel for another child's-eye view from a different part of the world (and an older child), we heartily recommend Tomorrow I'll Be Twenty by Alain Mabanckou. You might also enjoy Brother of Sleep by Robert Schneider and The Fox in the Attic by Richard Hughes. We also have a review of The Wall by Marlen Haushofer.

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Buy Nowhere Ending Sky by Marlen Haushofer at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Nowhere Ending Sky by Marlen Haushofer at


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