Margot Dembo has translated this extraordinary novel from the German, where it was hailed as have been Hermann’s earlier books. She writes in a spare style, outlining Stella’s life in detail. The detail is of an ordinary life. Stella’s husband, Jason, is a builder and travels a lot to sites, leaving Stella with their draughter, Ava. This doesn’t worry Stella too much, as she finds his homecomings all the more delightful, as does Ava, who adores her father. Stella is a nurse, so she is not always at home, busying herself with household chores. But one day when she is, a stranger knocks, and through the intercom, Stella learns that he wants to talk to her. She has not seen him before, and has no desire to allow him into the house, or to talk to him, so she tells him so, and thinks no more about the incident. Until he appears the next day, and the next, and the next. Is she being stalked? And why? Slowly Judith Hermann increases the pace of her narrative, so that the reader, as well as Stella, becomes anxious. When Stella discovers that the man lives nearby, she becomes fearful, and not just for herself. In desperation she goes to his house, to confront him, but the situation is not improved by this understandable action. Relentlessly the tale unfolds, until the final nightmare. The reason for the title eludes this reviewer, though upon reflection it may become clear, as this is not a novel to dismiss lightly. It is a possible, and probable, scenario, that could come back to haunt the reader, as it undoubtedly haunts Stella. Let us hope that the translator and the writer can continue to work together, as Hermann’s work deserves a global audience.
WHERE LOVE BEGINS by JUDITH HERMANN
PUBLISHED by CLERKWELL PRESS for a recommended $27.99