The Door – Magda Szabó


A young writer, struggling for success, employs an elderly woman called Emerence to be her housekeeper.
From their first encounter it is clear that Emerence is no ordinary maid. Although everyone in the neighbourhood knows and respects her, no one knows anything about her private life or has ever crossed her threshold. Only a great drama in the writer’s life prompts Emerence to unveil glimpses of her traumatic past – a past which sheds light on her peculiar behaviour.
The Door brilliantly evokes the development of the bond between these two very different women, and the tragic ending to their relationship.

My review

I can understand that some readers are impermeable to the deep significance of Magda Szabo’s masterpiece, The Door. From several reviews I’ve read on Goodreads, one finds it difficult to fathom what holds together the peculiar relationship between the two woman characters : Magdushka, the writer married to another writer who needs a housekeeper, the childless and motherless intellectual, lacking at times emotional maturity; and Emerence, the sour-tempered house cleaner employed by Magdushka, the caretaker of the block of flats opposite the writer’s appartment, feared by everyone but nevertheless indispensable to everybody in the street, the infatigable worker, hostile to all ideology, with no education but with a keen intellect, two decades older than her employer but just as childless and who’s never married.

Why does Magdushka stick to Emerence at the expense of the latter’s rudeness and verbal abuse? Emerence who comes at no hours to do the housecleaning though with impeccable results. The housekeeper even “steals” the couple’s dog in a way: Viola, the dog, named as such by Emerence, lives with them but only Emerence is his master (to the extent that the dog accepts the occasional beating without whining). Why doesn’t Magdushka set a final point to all this and get herself another house domestic, malleable and docile?
Well, there is a secret that cannot be explained: what draws two persons to each other that ends up in a trusted friendship even though one has to suffer vexations from the other? You have to read this book in order to grasp the essence of this uncommon friendship without being deterred by Emerence‘s out-of-the-blue reactions or cold indifference. And what about the door? Well, what’s behind the door is central to the bond between these two women.

The Door is a beautiful novel about hard-gained love and what is attached to it: the perpetual need for redemption, the learning pathway to trust, the looming danger of betrayal; love as source of pain.
There is the love between these two women that everything seems to oppose, but also the one between man and wife; the faithful love between the dog and his humans; the caring love for the elderly by the younger and the disillusioned one the other way round; the love for one’s community.

Anyway, isn’t love the core of all existence?

An absolute all-time favourite, a masterpiece:
a rating of 5/5 and beyond.

A buddy reading with Jostein

Read in April 2017 within the reading challenge Objectif PAL

The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

Book description


In 1956, Stevens, a long-serving butler at Darlington Hall, decides to take a motoring trip through the West Country. The six-day excursion becomes a journey into the past of Stevens and England, a past that takes in fascism, two world wars, and an unrealised love between the butler and his housekeeper. Ishiguro’s dazzling novel is a sad and humorous love story, a meditation on the condition of modern man, and an elegy for England at a time of acute change.

My review

At last I’ve read The Remains of the Day. It’s been on my to-be-read list for ever and I’m so glad that it has now shifted on my “read” list.
As many readers of the book, I’ve seen the movie first. I was in my early twenties when it hit the theaters and I was in awe of both Hopkins’ and Thompson’s fine art of acting (I start to speak like Stevens, the butler character performed by Anthony Hopkins on screen). At that time, being still at the dawn of my life journey and lacking reasonable life experience, I just could not come to terms with Stevens’ apathy on all levels: how could he not see the love in Miss Kenton’s eyes (the housekeeper character played by Emma Thompson), how could he not understand what was going on during those State-classified meetings the drawing room at Darlington Hall? “Stevens! Do something, say something! Ah, what a coward you are!” Basically that was it and I loved the movie.
Twenty years later, it’s a whole different story. The afternoon in my life journey has already set in. I’m not in the evening yet, no reason to speak about what remains of my day. Yet. But watching the movie for a second time has profoundly disturbed me. Am I sure I have not wasted my life? Looking back at the last twenty years that have gone by and, no, it is fine, nothing’s wasted. Almost nothing. I do acknowledge very dark years that took the form of a somber pitfall on my life tracks. That’s life with ups and downs. I believe the most important feature in life is revolt by not accepting statu quo of uneasy situations, that’s the least one can do. And if hell breaks loose, the only option left to us, humans with a conscience, is to fight back. Fight for our values of love, freedom, equality, respect, right to live a dignified life. What is human dignity? Where does it reside in? The question that Stevens asks himself is “has retained his dignity all this time”? I cannot say about Stevens because I have no right to be judgemental of how he has led his life but I do know about me. And that’s enough.

Read the book. Re-read it. Watch the movie. Watch it again.

Revolt. Fight back. 20 January 2017. Revolt. Fight back.

Nutshell – Ian McEwan

Description by the publisher


Trudy has betrayed her husband, John. She’s still in the marital home – a dilapidated, priceless London townhouse – but not with John. Instead, she’s with his brother, the profoundly banal Claude, and the two of them have a plan. But there is a witness to their plot: the inquisitive, nine-month-old resident of Trudy’s womb.

Told from a perspective unlike any other, Nutshell is a classic tale of murder and deceit from one of the world’s master storytellers.


My review

Once again Ian McEwan demonstrates what a masterfully brilliant writer he is!

Who would give second thoughts at being enthusiastic about knowing what a 8-month-old foetus is thinking about the outside world and its inner life? I wasn’t interested at first and wondered what got into McEwan to imagine such a protagonist: a adult conscience in an unborn being???
But then you just get into the story, the foetus character is incredibly believable and slowly you realise you are in a 21st-century retelling of one of the most famous Shakespearean plays: Hamlet.

How can I pretend to write a well-structured review after reading this ingeniously crafted opus? I lay down the arms and show you the way instead to The Guardian’s in-depth review of Nutshell.

Give me my go, my afterlife, paradise on earth, even a hell, a thirteenth floor, I can take it. I believe in life after birth, though I know that separating hope from fact is hard. Something short of eternity will do. Three score and ten? Wrap them up, I’ll take them. On hope – I’ve been hearing about the latest slaughters in pursuit of dreams of the life beyond. Mayhem in this world, bliss in the next. Fresh-bearded young men with beautiful skin and long guns on Boulevard Voltaire gazing into the beautiful, disbelieving eyes of their own generation. It wasn’t hatred that killed the innocents but faith, that famished ghost, still revered, even in the mildest quarters. Long ago, someone pronounced groundless certainty a virtue. Now, the politest people say it is. I’ve heard their Sunday-morning broadcasts from cathedral precincts. Europe’s most virtuous spectres, religion and, when it faltered, godless utopias bursting with scientific proofs, together they scorched the earth from the tenth to the twentieth centuries. Here they come again, risen in the East, pursuing their millennium, teaching toddlers to slit the throats of teddy bears. And here I am with my home-grown faith in the life beyond. I know it’s more of a radio programme. The voices I hear are not, or not only, in my head. I believe my time will come. I’m virtuous too.

Via Netgalley: many thanks to the publisher for this ARC in exchange of an honest review.