Ever since discovering her lifelong best friend was sleeping with her (now ex) husband, Christine's trust in other women has been a little shaky. Sure, she has a few close friends, but she's also fiercely independent and shies away from sharing too much with them. When Ruth, one of her colleagues, hears Christine saying that she doesn't feel the need for a best friend, she wishes she could show her how enriching a good female friendship really can be. She embarks on a mission to find Christine’s old girlfriends in time for her forty-fourth birthday, and plots to bring them together for the surprise party of a lifetime. Of course, finding all of these women turns out to be easier said than done, but in the process, Ruth and the others helping her not only find out more about Christine's past friendships, but about their own too. Meanwhile, Christine, who has no idea of the search taking place, has some personal challenges of her own and may soon need the support of her girlfriends more than ever. This is a loving and laugh-out-loud funny portrait of one woman’s life, told through the stories of her friendships.
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Karen McQuestion Reviews Inseparable
The first time I read a book translated from German to English, it was Bernhard Schlink's excellent novel The Reader. At the time, I wondered why I hadn't read more translated works. It seemed clear that I'd missed out on opportunities to enjoy great stories while gaining insights into other cultures, so I was glad to hear that AmazonCrossing is giving readers more options in translated fiction.
Inseparable, by Dora Heldt, is the German version of Sex and the City, with a much larger cast of friends. The main character, Christine Schmidt, is a columnist for a city magazine; her columns, scattered throughout the book, give the reader a view of her past and present friendships.
In the beginning of the story, Christine is 43, childless, and divorced. Her marriage dissolved when her husband left her for her former best friend, Antje, and since then she's lost faith in female friendships. To cheer her up, a few of Christine's friends decide to throw her a surprise birthday party, inviting all her friends going back to childhood.
While reading Inseparable, I was struck by the cultural differences between Germany and the United States: the prevalence of smoking and drinking there (lots of champagne and the resulting hangovers); what seemed to be an easy acceptance of a friend's affair with a married man; the mention of a traditional wedding newsletter consisting of recipes and crossword puzzles; friends linking arms when walking in public; a dish called Greunkohl, full of peeled potatoes, with mascarpone crème for dessert.
But the novel has universal elements as well, like the sometimes testy dynamics between mothers and daughters, the difficulty of renewing lapsed friendships, and the desire to lose weight before a big reunion. The reader is also privy to some touching questionnaires filled out by the party guests detailing their relationships with Christine and their thoughts on friendship in general.
Inseparable is an ideal novel for those who like to listen in on private conversations, vicariously experience the ups and downs of one woman's life--and, of course, enjoy a happy ending. After you turn the last page, you may just want to pick up the phone and call an old friend.
The best-selling author of A Scattered Life, Easily Amused, and Celia and the Fairies, Karen McQuestion has published essays in Newsweek, Chicago Tribune, the Denver Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and several anthologies.About the Author:
Dora Heldt was born in 1961 on the North Sea island of Sylt. She was trained as a bookseller and has worked in publishing since 1992. She is the author of Life After Forty and Vacation with Dad, which spent sixty-one weeks on Germany’s bestseller list upon its release there in 2008. She lives today in Hamburg, Germany. Jamie Lee Searle is a German-to-English translator who translates literary fiction, short stories, and articles for publishers and organizations throughout Europe and the United States. She also teaches German language and translation to undergraduate students. She is co-founder of the publishing collective And Other Stories, which seeks to promote and publish international literature in translation in the United Kingdom. She lives in London.
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