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the Complete Review
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Two Women

Harry Mulisch

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To purchase Two Women

Title: Two Women
Author: Harry Mulisch
Genre: Novel
Written: 1975 (Eng.: 1980)
Length: 126 pages
Original in: Dutch
Availability: Two Women - US
Two Women - UK
Two Women - Canada
Zwei Frauen - Deutschland
. Deux femmes - France
  • Translation of Twee vrouwen
  • Translated by Els Early
  • Two Women is currently out of print

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Our Assessment:

B : a well-told little novella of love, desire, and memory

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 6/10/1998 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "Die Figuren sind eigenwillig und lebendig, die Sprache bildreich und dennoch schlicht (.....) So ist es gut, daß dieser Roman wieder vorliegt, denn er zeigt einen Autor, der eine Liebesgeschichte und seine Bedeutung im Gleichgewicht hält." - Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Harry Mulisch's short novella is narrated by Laura, travelling from Amsterdam to Nice after having received the news that her mother has died. The story switches back and forth between the present, as she drives through France, and memories of the recent past.
       Divorced from Alfred, Laura works at a museum. Her ailing widowed mother lives in comfortable retirement in Nice, where Laura goes to visit her occasionally. They are not especially close, but Laura is still tied to her. Laura's uneventful life is changed in a sudden moment of daring.
       Walking in Amsterdam Laura sees a woman and picks her up. Though she has never slept with another woman she knows they are meant to be together -- and so it seems they are. Sylvia -- the other woman -- agrees, and almost immediately moves in with Laura.
       The lesbian love affair is decorously told. Laura's vague friends disapprove, but she simply no longer sees them. People comment, but there is little outright discrimination. For their part the two women are not loudly homosexual, not frequenting lesbian bars or discos, or flaunting their love.
       After a few months the relationship is both settling in and unwinding. There seems to be something missing -- perhaps a child, they wonder. Laura's inability to conceive was apparently one of the reasons for her divorce. Sylvia becomes more distant, and finally moves out, initially lying to Laura about where she intends to go.
       Mulisch is in some danger of making the story too melodramatic, but as a story of love and passion the melodrama is acceptable. The turn of events is ultimately not necessarily surprising but a sad, almost too foreseeable unwinding of fate.
       It is not an exceptional story, from its subject matter or ending, but Mulisch writes very well. He is able to capture characters and moments with only a few words, and there are scenes which are superbly rendered. The chapters are very brief, the alternating present and past quite effective. There was a bit too much fainting in the book for our tastes (fainting is almost never convincing in fiction -- when will authors finally realize that ?), but otherwise it is a fine little book.

       Worthwhile for Mulisch's deft writing, Two Women is a small, thoughtful entertainment. We recommend it, but there is no need to go out of one's way to seek it out (as one must, since it is out of print).

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Two Women: Reviews: Twee vrouwen - the film: Harry Mulisch: Other books by Harry Mulisch under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Dutch literature at the complete review

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About the Author:

       Dutch author Harry Mulisch was born in 1927. One of the foremost post-war European authors he has written numerous international bestsellers. Ridiculously few of his works are available in English.

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