Love in Five Acts by Daniela Krien

My grateful thanks to Milly Reid for inviting me to participate in the publication day blog blast for Love in Five Acts by Daniela Krien, translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch and for sending me a copy in return for an honest review.

Love in Five Acts is published by Quercus imprint MacLehose today, 29th April 2021, and is available for purchase through the links here.

Love in Five Acts

Bookseller Paula has lost a child, and a husband. Where will she find her happiness? Fiercely independent Judith thinks more of horses than men, but that doesn’t stop her looking for love online. Brida is a writer with no time to write, until she faces a choice between her work and her family. Abandoned by the “perfect” man, Malika struggles for recognition from her parents. Her sister Jorinde, an actor, is pregnant for a third time, but how can she provide for her family alone?

Love in Five Acts explores what is left to five women when they have fulfilled their roles as wives, mothers, friends, lovers, sisters and daughters. As teenagers they experienced the fall of the Berlin Wall, but freedom brings with it another form of pressure: the pressure of choice.

Punchy and entirely of the moment, Love in Five Acts engages head-on with what it is to be a woman in the twenty-first century.

My Review of Love in Five Acts

Five linked but separate short stories.

Although Love in Five Acts is a slim volume of just five stories it took me a long time to read. This is not a criticism, but rather a tribute to the intensity and depth presented that required my full attention and engagement. Love in Five Acts is a beautifully written, occasionally stark, and always sensitively translated, collection exploring what it means to be a woman in the modern world. Indeed, Jamie Bulloch’s nuanced translation is a real strength of the book. I loved the fact that there are no direct speech marks because this technique gave the sensation of being inside a character’s head and made the reading experience more visceral.

I found each woman fascinating almost in spite of myself as I didn’t much like any of them. Even Paula’s terrible grief didn’t make me feel pity, but rather felt like I was observing one step removed so that I was actually quite unnerved by my responses. I thought this was incredibly clever writing. As each woman searches for her version of idealised love – be it with her siblings, partners, parents, children or lovers – and some doing so more successfully than others – there is a razor sharp and often unforgiving illustration of modern femininity. I found Love in Five Acts made me question whether any woman can be truly fulfilled and happy, which was an uncomfortable sensation.

I must mention the fabulous cover to Love in Five Acts too, because it conveys many of the themes of the stories so wonderfully. Each of the women is on the precipice and for many a leap of faith is essential to their future. That precipice may be one of relationship, grief, identity, life and death, but each one is equally as important and carefully balanced through the stories.

If I’m honest, I’m not sure quite what I thought of Love in Five Acts. Beautifully written it felt more brutal than I was anticipating, more raw and unforgiving, and yet it was completely real and dynamic too. I think you should read it for yourself and see if you can articulate the book’s impact better than I have done. There’s one thing about Love in Five Acts – it’ll make you think!

About Daniela Krien

Daniela Krien was born in 1975 in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, then in the G.D.R. Her first novel, Someday We’ll Tell Each Other Everything, was published in English in 2013 (MacLehose Press) and in fourteen other languages. For a subsequent volume of short stories, Muldental, she was awarded the Nicolaus Born Prize. Love in Five Acts has been sold for translation into twenty languages. She lives in Leipzig with her two daughters.

About Jamie Bulloch

Jamie Bulloch is a German-English translator of authors such as Robert Menasse, Timur Vermes or Birgit Vanderbeke, and a winner of the Schlegel-Tieck Prize for German Translation. He lives in London with his wife and three daughters.

You can follow Jamie on Twitter @jamiebulloch.

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