Translated from German by Jamie Bulloch
I wasn’t exactly sleepless when reading Romy Hausmann’s second novel, but I did read way past my bedtime to finish it … once I’d got over my reservations about the structure. Time leaps, two narrative threads five years apart, and a stack of undated letters from who knows when. With few connections for a good quarter, maybe even a third of the novel. Such confusion may well have been intended by the author … to induce the same sense of panic in the reader as her protagonist Nadja experiences in her opening sentence. A panic attack is like standing on a cliff edge. Don’t look down or you’ll feel dizzy. I admit I felt very dizzy during my first reading session (probably exacerbated by some formatting issues in the digital proof I was reading). So I took a break for 24 hours, returned after a few deep breaths, and read through to the end at my second sitting!
The narrative strands do eventually coalesce but not as you would expect, and I’m not going to tell you how because … spoilers! Each strand has its own mystery. Strand 1 is the contemporary strand and provides all the narrative drive. The central question here is why do Nadja’s employer and his wife, her ex-friend, feel they can set her up for a murder she didn’t commit? Strand 2: Who murdered Nelly Schütt in 2014 and was the right person convicted of the crime? Strand 3: Can we believe the writer of the letters that Marta simply died of natural causes in the bath?
Once you’ve got a handle on the structure, your bearings on the drama (and there is plenty), the central theme is how is justice served, and does the system ever get it right? The answers to all three mysteries differ, but I’ll let you know just one thing. Someone gets away with murder, but who?
This post is part of the Sleepless Blog Tour / Blog Blast.