Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman by Friedrich Christian Delius

I'm sure many of you have noticed on various book blogs the reviews and news on Peirene publishers. This is exactly where I read about them too. Peirene specialise in translating short books written in mainland Europe into English. I bought the three first books they have published and while Chris was traumatised as a result of reading 'Beside The Sea', I decided to start with 'Portrait Of The Mother As A Young Woman'.

This is a very short book and only took me a day to read it and it follows a young German woman who is eight months pregnant, walking to a concert in Rome during the Second World War. This woman travelled to Rome to be with her husband, a German solider, who was almost immediately shipped off to Tunisia leaving this woman on her own in a strange city during war time. The book is really an account of her thoughts and the different memories that pop into her head and any conclusions she comes to. This woman is incredibly naïve so there is an absence of any clever insights into the war or any great revelations with regards to Germany's involvement, rather she is more pre-occupied with her baby, the return of her husband and how she hopes the war will end.

These are probably the same thoughts which occur to her almost everyday and indeed must have been similar to the thoughts of a lot of people during that time. Thinking about her husband and her baby and remembering her family back in Germany seems to help her become slightly more at peace with herself and her situation.

This book is set during a more peaceful time in Rome, before the bombs hit and before the allied invasion. I'm guessing that the author wanted to try to detail how an ordinary person living during this time would justify and come to terms with what was happening around them. While this is an interesting book, I did not find anything new or surprising in it.

Verdict 3/5

Posted by Jess


  1. Oh no! I had high hopes for this one - especially since I am interested in the thoughts of new mothers. Sorry to hear that you were disappointed.

  2. Jackie - perhaps I just missed the point on this one, it wasnt a bad read but just didnt contain anything new.

  3. I'm interested to read my copy of this book, most reviews have been glowing so now I'm concerned :)

  4. Yes, I'd heard lots of good things about this as well but I'd also heard that there was nothing new in the telling of the story as well. I think I'll give this one a miss.

  5. Amy - Im sure something went over my head, or maybe the ordinaryness of it was the point, who knows. I wont say I disliked it but I wouldnt give it a glowing review.

    Petty - Im glad Im not the only one then! I still have the other two books released by this publisher which have had better reviews. It was good to read something a bit different.