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Twenty years after leaving her for her younger sister, Esther receives a letter from Laci, her estranged lover, announcing his grand return. Memories of her bitter loss, of the pain of love come back to worry Esther, as she prepares for one last meeting with the man who robbed her of almost everything. Nunu, her one faithful companion and housekeeper, warns her calmly of the calamity to come; but Esther does not heed her warnings. Or she simply doesn’t care anymore. Hers is a life wasted in nostalgia, of embalming each passing year with the rejection and betrayal of her loved ones. As the hour draws near, Esther readies to confront Laci, the charming trickster and masterful liar…

Esther's Inheritance

“Some people lie because it’s their nature…
But you lie the way rain rains: you can lie with tears, you can lie with your actions…
Your life has been one long lie. I don’t even believe in your death: that too will be a lie.
Oh yes, you’re a genius all right.”

This is my second time reading Marai, the first being his most popular work, ‘Embers‘, but unlike ‘Embers’ I found ‘Esther’s Inheritance‘ to be not only a shorter read, but a much more manageable challenge in terms of language. This novella is far more suited to Marai’s bare-worded style compared to ‘Embers’. I like to think that this book is an example of how a complex story can be told elegantly without too much detail. Marai knows that what matters is getting across the facet of the plot his readers want to read, which with a story like this would be character analysis (given the antagonist is an infamous womaniser).

Having said that, this is a very different kind of love story, a twist on Dicken’s ‘Great Expectations‘, where there is no embittered virgin bride that turns vitriolic with time, but a woman who has learned to suffuse her pain with nature. Esther is no Havisham, and she has no intention to wallow in her envy. Hers’ is a character full of wisdom and grace gained from experience. Her intensely human reactions to the man who betrayed her, still show affection where there really shouldn’t be any. Towards the end, Esther is confronted with a decision: to listen to her heart and allow Laci to once again intrude into her life, or to take advantage of her situation and finally get her revenge.

I give this novel 3/5 stars.

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