Monday, 3 February 2014

The Crooked Maid by Dan Vyleta

Set in Vienna in 1948 the local citizens are adjusting to their new lives amidst the chaos of a post war city.

Anna is returning to the marriage she fled nine years previously after discovering her husbands infidelity.  She has been informed that he is now returning to Vienna following release from a prisoner of war camp and is on her way to meet him; perhaps, even to rekindle their marriage.

On the journey Anna meets Robert, an 18 year old boy on his way home to his step-father's sickbed.  As he and Anna become acquainted they come to discover that their paths will cross many times in war torn Vienna as they both face their own dilemmas in this unrecognizable city.

This is an outstanding book and I enjoyed reading every page.  The twists and turns in the story were always unexpected and Mr. Vyleta is clearly one step ahead of his reader at every turn.  Whenever I thought I had guessed what was happening another plot twist would emerge to prove me wrong.

The prose is tightly packed and I found myself thinking about this book even when I wasn’t reading it, which is always the sign of a good book.  At no point would I have called this an exciting read but it certainly has a page turning quality that called me back to it time and time again.  It is intelligently written and the author has a keen perception of both the time and place of this novel.  It is extremely atmospheric and I felt a part of the narrative.

The characters are all extremely interesting albeit not very likeable.  They are all uniquely flawed and nobody jumps out as an obvious protagonist but I rather think that is the point of this book.  All the characters are thrown together in this post war struggle and are trying to find their way in a city that is unknown to them following the war.  They have not returned to the city they left but to a city that has been ravaged by war and everything and everyone is altered by it.

It is quietly macabre in parts whilst not being gruesome.  It is never gratuitous and is always essential to the intricate plot.  

Dan Vyleta is clearly a great storyteller and writes with intelligent clarity.  This is the first book of his that I have read and have since learned that this is a sequel to The Quiet Twin.  However, not reading that first has in no way impaired my enjoyment of this as a stand alone novel.  I would love to go back and read the prequel now and genuinely hope to read more books by this author in the future.

ISBN:  978 1408827833

Publisher:  Bloomsbury

Price (based on today’s price at  £8.31

Total saved so far:  £163.55