Aufräumen (Piper Verlag, 2014) means “to tidy up”, and Luisa is having a clear-out. But the first thing that needs to go is her husband Alfred – an “artist”, who despises yet sponges off her – after almost 40 years of marriage. Then there is her son-in-law who has worn down her daughter, and the incompetent doctor who blighted the whole family’s lives with a botched operation on her other daughter. So she buys a little bottle of poison and sets off by train to begin this overdue de-cluttering.
Angelika Waldis tells the story of Luisa’s travels and intentions interspersed with an account of the many events and tragedies that have brought her to this point. It could make for very heavy reading, and yet somehow it doesn’t. There is a deceptive lightness about the beginning of the book – at first I thought it was going to be a rather dark comedy, which it certainly is not – but although the mood changes, the ironic, humorous tone is there throughout to prevent it from becoming overwhelmingly depressing. Above all, this book is beautifully written, with carefully crafted sentences. Indeed, one of Luisa’s hobbies, her distraction from the sorrows of her life, is to collect less felicitously expressed phrases from newspapers and magazines etc.
At times, as the NZZ reviewer , you wish you could shake Luisa, now aged seventy, for having spent forty years in the wilderness of her marriage, especially as the pattern seems to be repeating for her daughter. Yet at last, she has broken out. Will she really go through with her plan though? has pointed out
This is not a crime novel. Instead, it goes deeper, as a reflection on mortality, aging, mental health and how to deal with the curve balls life can throw at us. I found it sometimes hard, yet never difficult, and it lingers in the mind, leaving the reader with unanswered questions but on a note of hope.