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.