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Throughout the book, you are hoping fervishly for something – you have no idea what. With each page the hope increases in fervor and becomes more desperate and empty – at first, it is perhaps just a gentle wish for a nice calm ending for the three characters, nothing too spectacular, but something sunny and warm, there need not be a grand conclusion or miraculous change of circumstance. Later, as you are stumbling through the streets with Akos at three a.m., you know there is no hope yet you desperately yearn for something, anything to change. For it not all to be pointless and empty, for some final redemption. There is none – but the characters and the scenes stick with you, and somehow, in retrospect, it doesn’t all seem so bad – it is simply the lovely melancholy of life itself, it is the colour that life assumes in the twilight distortions of an autumn rain, when everything is dying and yet there is something so okay about that, even beautiful.

Skylark tells of the Vajkay family of three – the meek father and mother and the unmarried daughter Skylark, who has gone away for a week to visit relatives. We follow the mother and father as they venture out of their patterned and bleak home life and re-engage with society. The novel carries vibrant and entertaining imagery as we watch the everyday goings on of the town of Sarszeg, but it is the inner turmoil of the Vajkays that carries us along, culminating in a late night scene which finally words what has been hidden the whole time. But this is not the end. Life goes on and Skylark returns. The seemingly dramatic scene means nothing in the light of day, and suddenly, finally, we take a look at Skylark herself in a haunting and human moment.

Beautifully written, this is a book worth reading again for its portrayals of small town life in Hungary in the early 20th Century. The side characters are fascinating and I imagine this book will continue to reveal itself over many reads.

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