I always thought one of the benefits of becoming proficient in a foreign language would be that I’d be able to read another country’s literature in the original language, rather than in translation. (In fact, if I chose the language wisely, I’d be able to read that of more than one country.) I never thought for a moment that it would enable me to read a novel set in England, originally written in English by an English author but which has, so far, only been published in translation.
But that’s exactly what happened recently when I discovered Victoria Connelly’s first three novels, all magical romances and all of which have been published in Germany by Diana Verlag. Having now read the first one, Unter deinem Stern (Flights of Angels), I’m still at a complete loss to understand why it’s not yet been published in English.
Unter deinem Stern is the engaging story of two strangers living in Whitby, on the north-east coast of England: Claudie, a young woman who goes from bride to widow within six weeks of marrying; and Simon, who is trying to balance the demands of his manipulative girlfriend with caring for his pet goldfish and the slightly harder task of setting up his own business.
Despite Claudie’s sudden and tragic change in circumstances, she is doing reasonably okay with the help of her friends and colleagues, Kristen and Angela, MGM musicals, an understanding boss, weekly therapy sessions with Dr. Lynton in York (not that she thinks these are overly helpful) and five mini angels, who are temporarily staying on her desk and are here to help her. Yes, angels. But the great thing about these angels is that they’ve been specially chosen for Claudie, and they’re not your stereotypical angels. In the wrong hands, they could so easily have been twee or contrived but Connelly conjures up her angels with a deft keystroke and they are whimsical, endearing, charming, and also downright irritating at times, while also being characters with a serious purpose and a very important job to do.
Simon might not have suffered loss to the same extent as Claudie but he is a man who has been manipulated and used and who is now both alone and lonely.
Connelly tells their stories with great compassion, humour, warmth and understanding and I felt for these two people almost immediately. Apart from the angels, who I absolutely loved, best friend Kristen should also get an honourable mention among the characters. Unter deinem Stern is a well-paced and compelling read. Even when I had to put the book down to work or go do something else, I found my fingers sneaking towards it and picking it up to read one more chapter, which inevitably led to another and then one more and so on. In the end, I conceded defeat and stayed up late to finish reading it.
I liked how, although Claudie and Simon do briefly meet early-ish in the novel, Connelly also had them miss each other a number of times when she could easily have had them run into each other again. It opened up the whole question of whether or not you meet someone by chance or when the time is right for them to come into your life and impact upon it. It also makes you wonder about the what-if’s, the almost-encounters, and how the story might have been altered, if they had played out differently.
This is an excellent book that deals with one woman’s loss, her subsequent grief and need to move on in her own time, together with a man’s search for his own happiness and contentment, neither of which can happen until they have both grieved and recovered some equilibrium. Despite the premise, it is a funny and warm story although yes, it is also sad in places, but it is ultimately an uplifting story of finding your own way and taking the time you need to do this. I’d recommend this to anyone who is looking for a great read but sadly only those of you whose German is good enough will currently be able to read it. I have to hope this won’t always be the case. It’s simply too good a book for you not to be able to read it.
Victoria Connelly’s first three novels – Flights of Angels (Unter deinem Stern and filmed as Himmlischer Besuch für Lisa), The Unmasking of Elena Montella (Wenn es dich gibt) and Three Graces (Wohin mit der Liebe) – have all been published in German. Happily, her fourth, the romantic comedy Molly’s Millions, was published by Allison & Busby in England and in English. Victoria is also currently working on a trilogy of books about Jane Austen addicts, the first of which is due out in the UK in September (with a launch during the annual Jane Austen Festival in Bath). They will be published by the Avon, Harper Collins Imprint, which you’ll know from previous posts is fast becoming a favourite of mine. You can find out more about Victoria Connelly and her books on her official website: VictoriaConnelly.com.