Homestead by Rosina Lippi
I am not really sure what attracted me to pick this up when I was running the book stall during our village Open Gardens day recently. I think it may partly have been a mis reading of Austria thinking it was Australia out in the bright sunlight but whatever the reason I added it to my pile of books to buy and kept it aside.
Having discovered it was Austria and not Australia I thought that I may as well read it as the blurb on the back was quite intriguing. The book tells the story of a village up in the alpine region of Austria from 1090 through to 1977. It is however not told as history but as a series of stories about different characters in this tiny village.
The author spent some four year with the women in exactly such village learning about their language and their way of life . She was interested in their language and so spent time talking to the women and listening to their stories and the book is based on the stories she was told and her knowledge of their culture.
I found the book quite hard work to be honest as like with Russian books, I struggled to put a face to the name and work out who was who. This was mainly because Lippi followed the tradition the villages in the area use with regard to naming people. The person is named but they are also associated with their clan or family which is then associated with where they live. I got totally confused with all the different Annas and the three inter woven clans or families. It became especially confusing when they intermixed and the story jumped forward in time. It sort if became clear in the end buy I did find that I had to go back and re read a chapter and then check with the family trees in the front to the book to see who we were reading about in that chapter. I get a bit fed up when I have to keep checking back while reading a book and that sort of detracts fro the book for me.
Having said that, the story is beautifully told and the descriptions do give the reader a very good idea of the village, the houses and the way of life of the characters.
The story starts when a postcard arrives at the village post office and Grumpy Marie calls all the Annas of the village together to tell them. The postcard is just addressed to Anna Fink and because of the strange naming conventions in the village it could actually be any one of seven women. It causes quite a stir as the postcard is obviously from someone who has had a relationship with the Anna it is addressed to and no one knows anything about it. Given that the population of the village is only about 330 and everyone knows everyone else's business it is quite a mystery.
The book is really the piecing together of who this postcard is from and who the Anna in question is. At the same time we are gradually taken forward in time through history and the young girls at the start are old women by the end of the book.
The chapters are almost stand alone short stories and I think this is where it kind of lost me as I am not a short story fan. By about half way through the book I was starting to see they sort of fitted together but it wasn't an easy read at any time.
There are three main families, The Bengat Clan, the bent Elbow Clan and the Wainwright's Clan but bear in mind that someone from one clan marrying into another became someone called slightly differently. So Peter Sutteriüty was known as Benagto Alois's Peter and he married Anna Sutteriüty but she was Fink and was now known as Bengato Peter's Anna. Others had even more complicated names like Barbara Feuerstein nee Sutteriüty once married became Bengato Alois's Barbara or Half - Moon Hollow's Franz Michael's Barbara. I think you will agree that this makes for a very complex and confusing read, at least it was for me.
Because I struggles to work out who was who I didn't really warm to any of the characters and didn't actually care too much what they were up to. Some of the stories grabbed me more than others but I couldn't skip over anything as the interlinking and names had to bbe followed carefully.
Some parts were quite charming and some mildly amusing but all in all I found this hard work. It was interesting but not something I would rush to read again. I can't say I will be looking for any more of her books . I can't fault her writing and I did learn a bit about these sort of villages and traditions in the alpine region of Austria. I sort of pictured a life a bit like Heidi and her grandfather as they took the animals up to the mountains in the summer months to graze.
The villagers life was hard work and they took a pride in their cheese making but I can't say it was a way of life I envied in any way.
This is a book I shall be passing on through bookcrossing or maybe put it into the bookstall for our village fete in a few weeks time. I shan't be recommending it to anyone of my family or friends as it really didn't grab my attention enough.
Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same username.