MISS NOBODY by Tomek Tryzna


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The vagaries of adolescent female friendship, and the several thousand natural shocks that urgent young flesh is heir to, are trenchantly explored in Polish author Tryzna’s vivid (1993) first novel, an international success and the basis for a current film directed by his celebrated countryman Andrzej Wajda. The amusingly breathless narrator is 15-year-old Marysia Kawczak, whose distressingly ordinary life is irreversibly altered when her family of seven (including four younger siblings) moves from a nondescript village to the city of Walbrzych. Following a hair-raising first day at her new school, Marysia is befriended by petite, mercurial Kasia Bogdanska, a rich girl who composes appropriately dissonant modernist music and whose petulant questionings of authority make her an engaging, if often irritating, compound of Holly Golightly, Lolita, and Blanche DuBois. The exotic Kasia’s complacent iconoclasm quickly becomes Marysia’s refuge from a home life dominated by “a father who is a drunk and a mother who is a smoker” (as well as grotesquely overweight), as does the impressionable newcomer’s subsequent friendship with Eva Bogdaj, a phlegmatic daredevil who introduces Marysia to the pleasures of motorcycles, sex (“It’s like you’re dying, only a hundred times better”), and disrespect for her elders. The “education” Marysia receives turns her into a more confident and forthright young woman (with just a touch of sadomasochism) and enriches her talent for contriving elaborately varied fantasies—of the “prince” who’ll rescue her from the quotidian and the “monster” that’s poised to thwart her dreams. Tryzna concludes in a very interesting way: with Marysia’s disillusionment as she overhears her two friends mock her (as “Miss Nobody”), and with a complex final scene that envisions her future both as the resolution of her romantic imaginings and as the mirror image of her mother’s surrender to domestic routine and slovenliness. A bit overlong, but an acute study of the manic-depressive psychology of adolescence.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-385-48939-0
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1998