Mrs. Sartoris by Elke Schmitter
Elke Schmitter's compelling, if bleak, novel Mrs Sartoris was a huge best-seller in Germany and it is easy to see why. Readable in one sitting, Mrs Sartoris is the heroine's first-person tale of her past life and loves, the disappointment that clouds her marriage, and the unbridgeable gap that threatens the relationship with her teenage daughter. Interspersed with the very careful, ranging, almost stream-of-consciousness narrative concerning her first, passionate love with the socially unavailable Philip, and her current, intense affair that has awakened long dormant desires, are small, disconcerting chapters about an unnamed pedestrian being (deliberately?) run over. Who is this 'victim'? Did Mrs Sartoris really not see them step out into the road?
Translated by Carol Brown Janeaway (who has brought us such gems as Bernard Schlink's The Reader and recent crowd-pleaser Embers by Sandor Morai) Schmitter's book is taught, compact and ultimately quite shocking. Janeaway's americanisms do grate a little (pocketbook not handbag etc.) but that notwithstanding Mrs Sartoris is an excellent, diverting read and one that will linger long in my mind.