I am a novice reader for this book in a couple of senses: I do not read many translations, and I also do not read many books older than I am. I believe this might be a major reason why I didn’t thoroughly enjoy this book, which was generously provided free of charge as an eBook by the translator.
One of the big issues I had with the book is that I don’t know a lot about how Germany was around the turn of the century. A lot of the geography, politics, and culture are foreign to me, and the book flows as if the reader is intimately familiar with the setting already. I think this might be why the author is not well-known today; what separates truly great works from those that have their set place is the ability of the author to create something that rises above the mundane and everyday to find at least one universal truth to stand upon in order to be understood outside its time and location.
The story itself has an interesting pace, at times moving quickly from event to event, at other times slowing to allow some suspense to build. It’s an odd plot, to say the least — feeding both a fear of science and a fear of folk magic, I think — that mostly works. The one fault, I feel, is that there really isn’t someone to identify with. The title character is mainly to be alternately feared, loathed, or pitied, but so are the people who become her victims, for the most part. If they aren’t one of those three, they’re too-small a character to participate in the action.
The translation, I thought, was fairly good. I have a feeling that most of the issues I have with the written word was the fault of Ewers’ word choice in the original German, and not with Bandel’s interpretation of his words. Overall, I feel that, if I were better educated or more experienced, I would have pulled something more out of this book.