Schmitt (Concerto to the Memory of an Angel, 2011, etc.) writes movingly about three women, divided by time and distance, whose lives connect when they attempt to break free of expectations imposed by society.
Displaying empathy for women and the constraints they face simply because they’re born in a certain era, the author delivers three fascinating, multilayered stories that merge in an unusual way. Young, pure Anne lives in Bruges at a time when most eligible young men are off fighting in the Crusades. Other girls envy her impending marriage to a handsome young man, but when a mirror splinters on the floor, Anne escapes her aunt’s home and her unwanted engagement and takes refuge in the woods. There, she finds comfort and companionship surrounded by nature. Labeled as a chosen one, Anne eventually travels with a trusted monk to a convent, where the poetry she writes is misinterpreted and her faith is questioned, but she remains resolute in her beliefs. Years later, in early-20th-century Vienna, another young woman seeks answers to her own questions. Hanna is married to a loving nobleman who adores her, but her unhappiness manifests itself in inexplicable actions and compulsive behavior. Seeking understanding of her despair, she turns to psychoanalysis and one of Sigmund Freud’s disciples. In present-day Hollywood, a third young woman buries her pain in sex, drugs and alcohol. Anny is a beautiful, brilliant actress who’s on a self-destructive course as she and the sycophants who surround her pursue the almighty dollar, the ultimate symbol of success in the movie industry. But when she crosses paths with a hospital employee, a character actress and an acting role with substance, Anny’s life begins to take on new meaning. Each woman’s journey is unique and painful, yet enchantingly sweet, as she works toward self-realization and rejects conformity.
Schmitt’s three complex stories are beautifully translated and masterfully written.