Nicholas During's Reviews > The Post-Office Girl

The Post-Office Girl by Stefan Zweig
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's review
Jan 15, 2012

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Read from January 15 to 21, 2012

I feel a bit mixed about this book. I know that Zweig doesn't lack critics, I've haven't yet read the Michael Hofmann take down but I will soon, and at first I was prepared to disagree with them here. I thought then that the book was an interesting look at the interwar period from a voice perhaps closer to the public that the more experimental, bohemian, elite works coming after WWI. At the same time the depiction of the despair the war, and fate, caused for Christine was very powerful. This is not a crippled vet, but a young woman one might have thought escaped the war relatively unscathed. But Zweig shows her to be a victim on a similar plan to any soldier, and the sense of injustice is perhaps stronger because of her ostensible inaction in the war. And then I thought the scenes in the hotel, and Christine's discovery of the 'Good Life' was also strong. Could this almost be a Marxist novel? And not just that, but one with out a warring hero, but a nice young girl who simply is excited to enjoy the pleasures that come with money. This is definitely a "woman's book" (I'm thinking of the precursor to chick lit and possibly the genre that creates the modern novel).By also showing the hypocrisy of the rich, and their meanness, I thought this section seemed political important; here is a book, not toting any party or aesthetic line, but trying to entertain the reading masses while exposing injustice and hypocrisy in their world. I also thought her transformation and Christine's changing identity was very good.

I did find the second part faltered however. Now the book became more preachy. Longer speeches about the detrimental effect of the war that has been covered in other books in much better way. While Christine seemed an original characters as she wasn't really a 'victim' in the war, the character of Ferdinand fell a bit flat. And it was in the second part where the melodrama seemed to take over. No small feelings for these characters, every emotions is strong and polar. And that, I think, is not great writing, and my interest began to flag. Anyway I'm glad I read this book, and think it is important historical work in an important time for literature. It's imperfect, but still contains the kernels of some very interesting ideas.
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