Resa's Reviews > The Hangman's Daughter

The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch
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's review
Jun 19, 2012

really liked it
Read in November, 2011

I was a bit wary about picking up this book because I don’t really like translations. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with “international” lit, I just hate thinking that I’m missing out on the meaning of the book because I don’t interpret things the same way as the translator does. I’m always afraid this is the case, but whether it is or not, there’s no way of knowing for sure without learning the native language of the author and reading the book the way it should have been read. That being said I do think The Hangman’s Daughter lost a little something in translation. The premise of this book is intriguing, and while I don’t normally go for the historical-fiction genre, I couldn’t help but see just what this hangman had to offer.

The plot is interesting and it kept me interested, but only after investing some time to get through the first few chapters. The start was slow, and the book did seem to drag on even though it had it’s moments of fast paced action and political intrigue. It wasn’t so slow that i felt like I had to put it down and wait until I was bored with everything else I had to read before picking it back up again, but there were moments when I found myself asking when they were going to ‘get to the point’. The relationship with Magdelana and the young physicians is interesting, but I wasn’t sure how much it really helped me enjoy the plot, or how necessary it was to the story, although it does give some interesting history of courtship and marriage in regards to the hangman’s family. It might just be my lack of interest in the historical-novel that made me a little bored with certain parts of the novel.

The hangman is by far the most developed character in the book. Many of the characters serving on the council seem a bit flat, your basic money-hungry politicians out for their own personal interest and willing to execute an innocent woman to keep peace in the town. This is another place where I wonder if some of the character development gets lost in translation. The hangman’s family seems interesting, but there’s very little development with that aspect of his life, with the exception of his daughter, who really seems like any other heroine dealing with her personal love interest and a looming arranged marriage with not too many unique characteristics.

Even with these flaws the book was interesting, I found the mix of supernatural and rational elements really very intriguing, and if you can get through some of the historical context (or you’re more interested in history than I am) it’s an enjoyable read. The author’s note at the end of the book which talks about his relation to the Kuisl family was actually very interesting, and after reading that I was really disappointed he didn’t spend more time talking about the hangman and his family. It’s a good book for the upcoming winter, the kind it’s nice to shut yourself up with when the weather outside isn’t great. I’ve read books this year I’d recommend ahead of it, but it isn’t a bad choice, and if you’ve been thinking about whether or not to give it a chance I’d suggest you just dive in and see what you think for yourself

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