Where Love Begins
Translated by Margaret Bettauer Dembo
Allen & Unwin Australia
The Clerkenwell Press
Stella is married, she has a child and a fulfilling job. She lives with her young family in a house in the suburbs. Her life is happy and unremarkable, but she is a little lonely-her husband travels a lot for work and so she is often alone in the house with only her daughter for company. One day a stranger appears at her door, a man Stella’s never seen before. He says he just wants to talk to her, nothing more. She refuses. The next day he comes again. And then the day after that. He will not leave her in peace. When Stella works out that he lives up the road, and tries to confront him, it makes no difference. This is the beginning of a nightmare that slowly and remorselessly escalates. Where Love Begins is a delicately wrought, deeply sinister novel about how easily the comfortable lives we construct for ourselves can be shattered.
About the author:
Judith Hermann was born in Berlin in 1970. She is the author of Alice,The Summer House, Later and Nothing but Ghosts, which have received a number of literary awards including the Kleist Prize. She lives and works in Berlin.
I like the sparseness of the narrative and the dialogue. No words are wasted and if you look a little closely at some of the prose you will find some brilliant insights/reflections on relationships, life, death and love. There is something intense, an anticipation of what is to come, a sinister creepiness that keeps you glued to the pages.
This is unlike any book I have read before – there is something about the simplistic prose, the sparseness of the words – yet the words are not empty, they convey so much feeling. I think the feeling of dread is summoned more from what is not said, than what is said. The same still is applied to the description of love. Such small details, such insignificant things, like the holding of hands, the rhythm of breathing have so much meaning. “That evening Stella sits by Ava’s bed until Ava falls asleep. Ava’s breaths changing from sighs, questioning sounds, into a slow rhythm that Stella listens to for a long time. Breathing as if there was nothing to fear in the world” (p.93). Every parent will recognise the emotions here. Beautifully written.
And then there is the stalking.