I’ve read a lot of ‘coming of age’ novels and I’ve read a lot of novels by women. But it seems to me rare that I’ve combined the two: coming of age novels by women writers. Perhaps just circumstance. But Alina Bronsky’s novel is a fresh voice, and a fearless one. Sascha Naimann is a seventeen year old ex-pat Russian, and comes with an attitude. She’s living (in Germany) with her two younger siblings, Anton and Alissa, her mother Marina and her step-father, Vadim.Or had been living. As the story opens, her mother is dead. Murdered by her husband.
Sascha has a bit of Paloma in her (The Elegance of the Hedgehog). Like many ‘coming of age’ novels, much of it is related to the problem of getting control of one’s life, and those things that impact it – making sense of what happens to her. Not always easy to determine what is controllable and what is not. What battles to fight, and which to save for another day. Sascha has seen her mother whom she loved murdered before her eyes by her step-father, so there’s that trauma to factor in as well.
Broken Glass Park (I like the European translation much better: Park of Fragments), features a smart first person narrative from first-time novelist, Bronsky. Sascha tells her story provocatively and boldly, without ‘artfulness’. She’s not particularly judgemental about her peers (she comes from an entirely different background than her classmates), but is clearly superior intellectually – though she’s willing ro get down in the dirt with them. Her nose is decidedly not in the air. She has a purpose. Actually, she has two: to write a book about her mother and to exact revenge on Vadim, She never really gets a chance at the revenge, but does a lot of growing up in the process.
A moving story, told with flair.