Book review – The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke

The Mussel Feast coverThe latest slim volume from Peirene Press is an elegant tale by German author Birgit Vanderbeke, which is as tightly wound as its young narrator. Beginning with the seemingly joyful preparation for a father’s return from a business trip, cracks soon begin to appear through the celebratory veneer, widening and splintering as the father fails to materialise at the expected time and the night wears on.

The dad, seen through the eyes of his teenage daughter, is a man with a very specific idea of how family life should be. Having escaped with his wife and two children from East to West Germany just a few years previously, it’s seems that this success heightened his expectations of their behaviour and appearances to unreasonable levels. That’s the excuse hinted at, but we’re left for the most part to deduce this fact for ourselves, along with the actions he is being excused for. Continue reading