New Year By Juli Zeh

New Year by Juli Zeh

German Fiction

Original title – Neujahr

Translator – Alta L. Price

Source – Review copy

November is German Lit month and I start with a book I feel a few people will review as it is the latest from bestselling German writer Juli Zeh.A writer that won the German lit prize (the German booker) with her debut novel. She has published a number of novels since then with a number being translated into English. This is the second I  have reviewed Decompression by her in German lit month in 2015. I liked her writing so when this arrived I knew I’d like it and like the earlier book it used a holiday as the catalyst for the story. Juli Zeh is a lawyer and judge. You can see in her writing that she has seen a lot of Human Nature. This book follows a man on holiday over Christmas and New year.

His legs hurt. In back, where there arer muscles one rarely uses with names he’s forgotten, With each piush of the pedal his toes come up against the linings of his shoes – sneakers meant for jogging, not cycling. Henning’s cheap cycling shorts don’t fully protect him from chafing, he has no water and the bike is far to heavy.

But the temperature is almost perfect. The sun hangs white in the sky, but doesn’t burn. If henning were on a lounger sheltered from the wind , he’d be warm. If he were walkingalong the seashore, he’d need a jacket

The opening and he is a typical new years day cyclist ill prepared and unfit !!

Henning is a young man on the cusp of middle age man that has what every man in his position should have a wife two children young 2 and 4 . He and his wife Theresa as they have gone to Lanzarote. But as we see things aren’t that rosy when his wife flirts with another man  The book opens as we see the Christmas period as they celebrate it and Henning looking back we see he has it all but recently has been having panic attacks. These panic attacks have started to affect his job but also his home life as he starts to lash out at those around him more and more and like when we see his wife flirt maybe it could be too late. He can’t quite work out why but as it is now New years day he has decided like most of us do that is to get fitter so as he sets out to cycle up a hill as he does the past comes into his head and this is the second part of the book which sees us going into Hennings his Childhood which has an event that until now was buried this event is maybe what has been causing his stress as dark secrets from his childhood resurfaces, It shows how we can bury the past no matter how dark but then they do rise to the surface in other forms like Panic attacks.

Henning likes making his parent laugh, they like it when he says clever things. Once he saic “the time we have on earth is as tiny as a pebble”. Mama hugged and kissed him and Papa wrote the sentence down and put it on the first page of a photo alim. The bit about the pebble came to Henning because he thinks so much about time, He can’t read a clock yet but often looks at the arrows. Yopu cant see them more, unless you look away and then after a while look back at them, The thing he finds most disturbing about time it that is always goes too fast or too slow. It never seems just right. Henning doesn’t believe time is his friend

I lived this poasage as it seems so true time isn;’t always our friend and especially in Hennings case as time doen’t forget !!

I liked the way she set this book up the first part is Henning in the present but the sense that all isn’t quite right creeps in as we see them on the holiday with their two young children but these panic attacks he has started to lose control of than when he takes that ride we have Henning looking at the past as a child so the narrative has two voice the old Henning and his world now and then him as a young boy as we find what has hidden in the past a sense that is there in the first part of the book then as he cycles he has a Proust like a moment of remembrance and then is in the past. It shows how the past can be hidden and how the darkest moments can’t always be hidden away or forgotten. A journey into a dark past that deals with how the mind works and human nature as I said you can see she has worked with people there is a sense of how the effects of our past are presents which is at the heart of all our lives but when they are dark like these no matter how much we try to avoid it there is always an elephant in the room !! Have you read any books by Juli Zeh

Winstons score – B+ is a solid book about one man’s dark childhood and its effects on the man that was a boy.

11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Guy Savage
    Nov 01, 2021 @ 21:39:57

    I am about half way through this. Agree with you about the book.

    Reply

  2. Pat
    Nov 01, 2021 @ 22:47:14

    Hi Stu, yes I’m a fan of Juli Zeh and have read quite a few including this one at the start of the year, I found it as good as always.

    Reply

  3. Lisa Hill
    Nov 02, 2021 @ 02:24:29

    Not another book about childhood abuse?

    Reply

  4. 1streading
    Nov 07, 2021 @ 17:06:50

    I’ve read Dark Matter and The Method – both great -but nothing since. She doesn’t seem to get much publicity even when her work is translated.

    Reply

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