One day a stranger rings the bell at her garden gate, saying he wants to talk to her. Disturbed, she tells him via the intercom to go away. This he does, but he returns the next day and the next, ringing the bell and leaving odd notes and photographs in her mailbox. What begins as eccentricity soon develops into stalking, but only at home, the one place where she should be safe. How should she deal with Mr Pfister, a man who is clearly mentally disturbed? Should she confront him or ignore him? As the situation escalates, her husband takes matters into his own hands.
The threat in this novel is understated, but no less disturbing, especially for the reader who has constructed her own similarly quiet life (i.e. me), deluding herself that she can control how much she engages with the outside world. Her stalker’s urge to talk parallels Stella’s young daughter’s prattling, and contrasts with her husband’s lack of conversation, which had been apparent from the day they met. Translated from the German by Margot Bettauer Dembo, Where Love Begins is published by The Clerkenwell Press, to whom thanks for my review copy.
There are many people in the oyster restaurant and they all have different relations to each other, which warrant small adjustments: they ask each other courteously whether they would prefer to sit in places in which they are not sitting, but in which the others would prefer them to sit.
You can’t help but perk up on turning to this slim collection of interlinked short stories by the creator of the Twitter hashtag #readwomen. These exquisitely observed vignettes of woman in her various guises, are a delight through and through. The openings especially (those of the first two stories are quoted above) left me dizzy, gasping for breath in their originality, and the evocation of the anxiety underlying the commonplace had me nodding in recognition. The minimalist style is somewhat reminiscent of Alison Moore’s writing, with what doesn’t happen as important as what does. But my own words seem inadequate in the face of such eloquence, so all I can do is to thank the publishers, And Other Stories, for my copy and urge you to get hold of one too. Like a box of luxury chocolates, you want to gobble it up all at once, but it’s worth savouring one bite at a time.