Set in rural south Poland in the 1980s, this novella follows a young girl's passage to adulthood in her village, where folklore lives alongside religious belief and peculiar personal metamorphoses are the norm.
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Wiola lives in a close-knit agricultural community. Wiola has a black cat called Blackie. Wiola's father was a deserter but now he's a taxidermist. Wiola's mother tells her that killing spiders brings on storms. Wiola must never enter the seamstress's 'secret' room. Wiola collects matchbox labels. Wiola is a good Catholic girl brought up with folktales and nurtured on superstition. Wiola lives in a Poland that is both very recent and lost in time. Wiola's life is peculiar. Wiola's life is just a life. Following Wiola's progress from childhood to adolescence, Swallowing Mercury is a novella about the ordinary passing of years filled with extraordinary days. In vivid prose, filled with texture, colour and sound, it depicts an enchanting world of horse-drawn carts and local markets, folk customs and political unrest, freshly-picked cherries and rival cigarette brands. It is a precise and sensitive character study of a clever, strong-willed, thoughtful girl who grows into a unique young woman, both an observer of and a participant in her world.
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||Bertrams Star Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
WIOLETTA GREG is the author of six volumes of poetry and a novella, Swallowing Mercury, translated here into English for the first time. Her poetry collection, Finite Formulae & Theories of Chance, was shortlisted for the 2015 Griffin Poetry Prize. She lives in Essex. ELIZA MARCINIAK is an editor and translator. She lives in London.