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You Would Have Missed Me by Birgit…

You Would Have Missed Me (2016)

by Birgit Vanderbeke

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222720,555 (3.25)10
West Germany, early 1960s: A little girl arrives with her parents from East Germany in a camp for displaced people. The girl's father is abusive and her mother ignores her. Soon she will celebrate her seventh birthday and all she wants is a cat. Instead she receives and illuminated globe. The girl can't hide her disappointment - but then she discovers that the globe offers her a way to escape the misery of the camp.… (more)



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Birgit Vanderbeke’s You Would Have Missed Me, translated from the original German by Jamie Bulloch, is a curious novella set on the seventh birthday of the narrator, a girl whose family has recently migrated from East Germany to the "Promised Land" of West Germany in the 1960s.

Most of the book recounts various memories from the girl's time in a refugee camp in the East with her mother, as well as anecdotes about her grandmother and what life was like at home compared with her time so far in the West. There are lots of wonderful details about life in both parts of divided Germany, and we see that the West wasn’t necessarily a haven for all refugees – particularly those with problems that they had to carry with them.

Read the full review on Sabotage Reviews: http://sabotagereviews.com/2019/07/24/you-would-have-missed-me-by-birgit-vanderb... ( )
  mooingzelda | Jul 24, 2019 |
Coming of Age Novella
Review of the English language translation paperback (2019) of the German language original "Ich freue mich, dass ich geboren bin" (I am Glad, That I was Born) (2016)

[rounded down from 3.5] Brigit Vanderveke's portrait of childhood centres around a 7-year-old girl's birthday when instead of a wished for cat, she receives a globe of the world and a copy of H.G. Wells' "The Time Machine" as gifts. The gifts propel her imagination in ways that likely provoked the future writer to be.

There are a lot of charming anecdotes of childhood here and one harrowing abstract description of physical abuse from an angered parent. A lot of it seems repetitious though as certain facts and descriptions of characters are repeated over and over. This may be from it being stitched together from episodic vignettes.

Childhood coming of age tales can be extremely evocative for everyone, but need something more before they can break into 4 or 5 star territory. Wioletta Greg's recent "Swallowing Mercury", although also novella length, had that sort of epic scale for me, but Vanderveke's seems like a snapshot in comparison. ( )
  alanteder | May 19, 2019 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Birgit Vanderbekeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bulloch, JamieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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