I first came across Zweig after watching the film, Letter from an Unknown Woman
starring Joan Fontaine and Louis Jourdan, which is based upon his short story of the same name. The story intrigued me and I wanted to explore more of his work. I am so glad I did. There is a real natural quality to Zweig’s writing, that is so true to life. In all honesty, I think Ferdinand is one of the most real male figures you might come across in literature. His frank, brutal honesty is so jarring to the senses, yet it is real! It is absolutely wonderful. Those last surprising final pages are the reason why I am giving this novel a five star rating. They are brilliant.
As I was reading, I was wondering who could have played Christine in a film version of this story. Initially, for the first section of the book, I immediately thought a young Joan Fontaine. Joan has that innocent dreamy look about her that sometimes is on the brink of becoming annoying—especially clear if you picture her in The Constant Nymph
. Christine fully embodies this when she’s at the hotel. Yet Zweig masterfully alters this perception through a jarring sense of change—a change that is rather cruel Christine’s character does a complete about face as a result of the changes that ensue. This new Christine has lost her dreamy innocence, and is faced with a bleak and stark reality. The change in perspective is done well. And I still think Joan would fit the part here as well—especially when considering her mischievous performance in Born to Be Bad
The progression of this novel is really unexpected. There is no real way you could infer or foresee what happens at the end by considering the events that happen in the beginning. I was truly surprised. Essentially, the end manifests into one of those proverbial forked roads, but the choices Christine has are so incongruous and unanticipated. Yet somehow, Zweig transforms these choices into something completely natural and believable, even acceptable. The end itself is so quiet and understated, yet it completely works. This is a truly amazing and wonderful novel. Bravo Zweig!