Warning: Possible Spoilers
Visitation is a novel by the German Writer Jenny Erpenbeck which documents the history of a house in Germany and its various residents throughout the twentieth century.
When I first heard the concept of Visitation, I was quite eager to give it a read. The idea was original but also lent itself to multiple story opportunities. Sadly, Visitation ultimately proved disappointing in this regard. What mainly dragged the book down for me was Erpenbeck’s overly descriptive writing style with the occasional long sentence, which often left me either confused or bored out of my skull. What I had originally suspected would be an enjoyable read ended up becoming a boring chore.
Admittedly, despite my initial problems with Visitation, the writing style did eventually grow on me and simplified quite a bit as the stories progressed. The overall style of Visitation was quite interesting too. Though the novel originally seems to be a series of separate short stories, each story manages to bleed into another, creating a developed and more connected sense of the story world, such as when the Architect’s wife describes being found by a Russian Soldier, only for a later narration to explain the event from the perspective of the soldier. The Gardener, one of the only constants in almost every story apart from the house, adds to this theme and his slow weakening throughout the book as he grows older perfectly encapsulates the main theme of Visitation: the theme of inevitability of life and the concept of ownership.
By far, however, my favourite story within the book was ‘The Girl’, which follows a young Jewish girl called Doris who is attempting to hide from the Nazi’s within the house. Without giving the whole plot of the segment away, I shall simply say that the chapter is filled with a lot of emotion and the ending was poetically perfect in my opinion.
Overall, Visitation is an okay read but some people may struggle getting into the story, due to the initial long-winded writing form. Sadly, Visitation also falls into the trap that many other short story collections I’ve read have, where some stories are incredibly enjoyable where as others seem dull and tedious. If you don’t feel deterred by the extra effort needed to get into Visitation and want to see a fairly unconventional presentation of short stories in novel form, then you might want to take a look.
If you wish to purchase Visitation, click this link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Visitation-Jenny-Erpenbeck/dp/1846271908