For readers of David Foenkinos’ Charlotte and Alina Bronsky’s Baba Dunja’s letzte Liebe
(The Apricot Girl)
by Beate Teresa Hanika
btb, September 2016
Elisabetta lives a secluded life in her Vienna childhood home. Ever since she was a young girl in the 1940s, she has been preserving apricot jam from the fruits of the tree in her garden. She keeps one glass from every year, just like she keeps her memories awake: Her glamourous older sisters who would sunbathe in the garden, admired by the neighbor’s boys, her mother’s beautiful singing, and her father’s gifts — little things he would extract for her from the pockets of his doctor’s coat. And then the day when everything changed, when her parents and her sisters were taken away by the SS and the girl was left behind, her only companion being the turtle her father gave her shortly before he left, and whom they mockingly named Hitler. And her sister’s voices also stayed with her, commenting everything she does.
When young Pola moves into the room Elisabetta rents out, the old woman’s routines are being challenged. Pola, a passionate dancer, struggles with her own past — her love for her soul mate Rachel and a terrible event that binds her to Elisabetta. And yet, a gentle companionship starts to form between the two women.
Told through the alternating viewpoints of Elisabetta and Pola, this is a poetic and moving, sometimes comical novel about two women and their ways of dealing with love and loss.
Beate Teresa Hanika has written much-awarded young adult novels, some of them translated into several languages. THE APRICOT GIRL is her first adult novel.