This is a beautifully written, slightly claustrophobic novel of a young, Budapest-dwelling Hungarian author – whose name we never learn until the end of the novel – who employs Emerence, an elderly woman, to become her housekeeper.
Everyone in the neighborhood has tremendous respect for the older woman, but no one seems to know much about her or her past, which would be odd for the Hungary of the time. And she never invites visitors past her front door.
At the job interview, we quickly learn it is not the author to select Emerence, but the older woman to decide if she wishes to enter into the author’s service – and life.
A beautifully written, slightly claustrophobic novel by Hungarian author Magda Szabó (1917-2007)
And enter into the author’s life she does, filling every sphere during their 20-year relationship, spanning the 1960s to the 1980s. Slowly, a relationship builds between these two very different women in a manner that is all-consuming. The novel foreshadows events that will happen later, and the guilt ‘the Lady Writer’ will later carry with her.
Szabó’s writing is beautiful. Although the ‘scope’ could be described as narrow, depicting the relationship between two women and the small events that make up their everyday lives in their neighborhood in the Pest section of Budapest, the slow revealing of backstory and the relationship the two women develop carries the reader along on this unusual tale.