Alice, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


When someone very close to you dies your whole life changes.

Everything is different. Alice is the central figure in these five inter-connected narratives, which tell of her life at times of loss.

Suddenly it is no longer possible to say what the person looked like, how he spoke, cursed, smiled, how he lived his life.

Objects are left behind, books, letters, pictures and every now and again you think you can see them in a crowd. Judith Hermann tells of days of transition, of waiting, of holding on and letting go-and of how clear and dazzling such days can sometimes be.

Alice is a book of extraordinary power and great literary beauty from one of Europe's finest writersAlice is translated by Margot Bettauer Dembo.


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Review by

This small book contains several short stories, but they're really more like chapters of a novella. They all focus on Alice and her experience of people dying. The focus is not on the dying person, but the person (mostly Alice) who is preparing for, or lives on after, the death. My sister died just a few weeks ago, so these stories had particular relevance to me, but of course there's a universal message here - people are dying all around us all the time.Judith Hermann is a contemporary writer, so the old-fashioned reading aids like quotation marks to indicate what someone said are omitted. Nonetheless, this elderly reader struggled on and in the end quite enjoyed the experience. I don't think Hermann is a "great" writer, but she's definitely on my watch list. I wouldn't hesitate to read another of her books except that she's more a short story writer and that's not my preferred genre.

Review by

When my friend gave me this book she told me, “It’s SOOO German”, meaning that the five men/chapters are all connected to the heroine through death. German Intellectuals (= ‘Dieter’ types) have a reputation (among Americans) for dwelling on death. In all fairness to the author, I found the book to be a celebration of life as contrasted by death.Each chapter gives a strong sense of place and mood: Berlin on a hot summer day, Berlin on a rainy summer day, an Italian Alpine village on a sunny day, etc. The heroine stays in a strong Zen-like zone of the present, a result of which, you don’t get a lot of back story on how some of the characters relate to her life history. There is an assumption that these connections have already been made long in the past, so as a reader, you are left to ‘connect the dots’. Also, the author tends to indulge in a lot of lists of stuff. I realize that these lists build up the sense of atmosphere and reality of the scene she is describing, but I sometimes got impatient and groaned, “another list”. One has to be somewhat patient with this book, it is a lot like reading poetry.My only gripe with the book is that there are no quotation marks when people are talking. I found this very irritating, probably because I like grammar too much and I tend to get confused by lack of punctuation, for example: He said that she said. Again, it is a bit like reading poetry, I found myself having to slow down and decipher sentences. I read the English language translation (by Margot Bettauer Dembo), so I’m not sure if these lack of quotation marks was just for this edition or if this is in the German version also. Maybe it is the hot new thing in the literary world, no quotations. It is probably some sort of revolt against those people who make the ‘bunny ears’ quotes with their fingers while talking.

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