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Nelly's Version by Eva Figes

First published in 1977

A woman arrives at a country inn, checks into a room under (she tells us) an assumed name, and finds a large sum of money in her suitcase as she unpacks. She does not remember her identity, does not know the reason she has taken up residence in an inn, but believes that someone will come for her to make her mission clear. As the days slowly unfold, she explores the town and has curious experiences. Cases of mistaken identity abound. She befriends strangers who may actually be friends or family members. When she is finally persuaded to move out of the inn and into a house, she wonders whether the house is hers and about the identity of a mysterious occupant.

I enjoyed puzzling about just how unreliable the narrator was, what was real and what wasn't. Is she suffering from amnesia, from paranoia (she's suspicious of everyone, sees conspiracies everywhere), from delusional thinking? The novel bears rereading in an effort to grasp its meaning. The mysteries aren't neatly resolved so if you can't abide a novel that leaves loose ends dangling, you might want to give this one a pass. I thought the ambiguity was delicious, given that the point of view is that of a disturbed mind.

Figes writes in a quiet but penetrating voice that moves a compelling story along with wit and wry charm.  This is the best of the Figes novels I've read.


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