Mesmerized by Alissa Walser

This is my second year participating in Lizzy’s and Caroline’s German Literature month. I’m doubly excited this year since not only did I read an interesting novel, but I won the novel in a giveaway that Lizzy and Caroline hosted. Winning a book is such a great thing. First I received the email that I won. Then I forgot about it until the post delivered it. I felt the excitement all over again.

Mesmerized by Alissa Walser is a novel based on Dr. Franz  Anton Mesmer and his process of curing patients through the use of animal magnetism. Set in Mozart’s Vienna, scientific discoveries popped up every day. Mesmer believes he is the next big thing when it comes to medical breakthroughs. He wants to garner attention from the imperial court. When the blind daughter of one of the court’s secretaries arrives at his hospital for treatment, Mesmer senses his chance. The young woman, who is also a musical sensation, is sponsored by the Empress herself. If Mesmer can cure her, then surely he would be the talk of Vienna. As it turns out, he does become the talk of the town, but not to his liking. People question his methods, his successes, and his closeness to his patients, especially with the young daughter.

This is Walser’s first novel, and she won the Spycher Literaturpresis in 2010. At first I found her writing style jarring. There are many short sentences, and the author switches viewpoints frequently. A couple of chapters in and I convinced myself that I wouldn’t like the novel.

Then I settled into her style. That’s when Walser sucked me into the story. Her novel put a spell on me and I couldn’t put it down. Her words and descriptions are subtle. Sometimes when I read a writer’s first novel I get annoyed with their attempt of proving their worthiness. I didn’t feel that from Walser. She didn’t come across as someone with a mission to be noticed. She’s a storyteller, plain and simple. I admire her skill.

This novel also fulfills my Award Winning books challenge.

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American living in England. When she isn’t writing, she’s traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs, or reading. Not necessarily in that order.
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13 Responses to Mesmerized by Alissa Walser

  1. The Hook says:

    You always pick the best shares!

  2. I love a good storyteller–glad you gave the book time to get used to and were pleasedin the end

  3. Caroline says:

    I’m so glad you liked it in the end. I started it and found the prose very beautiful but couldn’t get into it and decided to read it at a later date. I thought it was because I was tired but maybe the style needs getting used to. I find Mesmer an interesting character and the idea to write a novel about him is great.

    • TBM says:

      Are you reading it in German? I wondered if I wouldn’t have found it so jarring if I was reading it in German. Translations can be tricky. I remembered Mesmer’s name from my history courses but didn’t know a lot about him. He is a fascinating character and I’m pleasantly surprised that she decided to write a novel about him. He isn’t the typical topic in historical fiction. And thanks for the book!

  4. lizzysiddal says:

    So glad you enjoyed it!

  5. Vishy says:

    Nice review, TBM! Glad to know that you liked the book. I found your comment on the changing points of view quite interesting. I find that, when the point of view keeps changing frequently or when the plot arc keeps shifting from the past to the present and when the author doesn’t indicate the change clearly, it is quite difficult to follow the story. The topic of this book looks quite interesting and very unique for a historical novel. Thanks for the review.

    • TBM says:

      I agree with you Vishy. Some authors are more adept at changing points of view and past to present. It took some effort to get used to her style. Part of that could be that I read an English translation–maybe a little was lost.

  6. Fergiemoto says:

    Congratulations on winning a novel! That’s a great prize for an avid reader!

  7. Pingback: German Literature Month – Week III Links « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  8. Pingback: German Literature Month 2012: Author Index « Lizzy’s Literary Life

  9. Pingback: German Literature Month: Alissa Walser | Follow the Thread

  10. Pingback: Alissa Walser: Mesmerized – Am Anfang war die Nacht Musik (2010) | Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

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