Viking Books 5th November 2020
Stefan Valeriu, a young Romanian student, holidays alone in the Alps, where he soon becomes entangled in romantic relationships with three different women who pass through his guesthouse. We follow Stefan after his return to Paris as he reflects on the women in his life, at times playing the lover, and at others observing shrewdly from the periphery.
Women’s four interlinked stories offer nuanced and deeply moving portraits of romantic relationships in all their complexity, from unrequited love and passionate affairs to tepid marriages of convenience. In light, elegant prose, Mihail Sebastian, widely regarded as the greatest Romanian writer of the 20th century, explores longing, otherness, empathy and regret.
The latest title in the PENGUIN EUROPEAN WRITERS series: forgotten classics by writers of different European nationalities, published as a response to Brexit.
This set of 4 short stories impressed me, they were sharp and witty and all linked by the central character Stefan Valeriu and as the title suggests his relationship with women. Stefan lives a colourful life, or certainly that is the impression within the pages of this book. One story takes the form of a letter to Stefan, while the others are written in the third person, although the voice of Stefan is strong. The writing is eloquent but the stories entertaining and very accessible, at times the writing was amusing, farcical almost, particularly as the book progressed and the character of Stefan developed.
The book evidences, essentially Stefan’s love for women as he moves through life and while the relationships weren’t all necessarily positive the feeling the book left me with was one of women as strong, powerful and independent, although I might have been overly influenced by the final story! The book offers snippets of Stefan’s time and the focus is very much on the relationship with the woman in question. Not much is known about Stefan outside of this, although we know he was training to be a Dr and ended up performing on stage. The stories do link, not only with Stefan and I think this book coud warrant a reread as I suspect there may be some more subtle touches within its pages, previously unnoticed.
A book I enjoyed a lot but would not necessarily have picked up, had I not been invited to be involved in this blog tour. So a book I am recommending to you because it is something different, it is short and it is fun. But check out what others are saying, details of the blog tour below. Thank you to Rosanna at Penguin for inviting me to be part of this blog tour and providing me with a gorgeous copy of the book. Thanks as always for reading.
About The Author
Mihail Sebastian was born in Romania in 1907 as Iosef Hector. He worked as a lawyer and writer until anti-Semitic legislation forced him to abandon his public career. Having survived the war and the Holocaust, he was killed in a road accident early in 1945 as he was crossing the street to teach his first class.