Sunday, 9 November 2014

'The Parent Trap' by Erich Kästner (Review)

You're never too young to start enjoying the delights of fiction in translation, and nobody knows that better than the good people over at Pushkin Press.  Not content with reviving the reputations of writers like Stefan Zweig and Antal Szerb, and introducing us to modern writers such as Andrés Neuman, they've branched out into providing books for younger readers through their Pushkin Children's Books imprint.

I was keen to see what my daughter would make of some translated classics, so I was very grateful when Pushkin sent a few books for me my daughter to try - and, coincidentally enough, the first fits in very well with German Literature Month.  You see, this is a classic of German-language children's literature, with a storyline many of you will find rather familiar...

Tell me about about yourself.
My name is Emily Malone, and I'm seven years old.  I like reading and dancing - and I like the movie Frozen!

What's the name of the book, and who is it by?
The book is called The Parent Trap, and it's by Erich Kästner.

What's it about?
It's about two girls, Lottie and Luise, that look exactly the same and are convinced that their parents are hiding from them that their other parent is alive.  Then they switch places and somehow things do *not* turn out as they planned, but also good things happen :)

Did you like it?  Why (not)?
I did :)  Because it was a good story, and it was really funny that they didn't even like each other at the start and then were really good friends.  Also, it's exciting when they change places because you don't know what's going to happen next!

What was your favourite part?
When one of them had a a dream, it was really weird because they cut the two girls in half!  But it wasn't really cutting them in half, they cut off one bit and then stuck it to the other girl, and the parents each took one child!

Was it difficult to read?
It was difficult to read the foreign words (the names and places).  Maybe it was a little difficult sometimes, but it was usually OK.

Would you recommend this book to other boys and girls?  Why (not)?
Yes, I would.  Because I think it would be a good story for girls, but I don't think, on the other hand, if they want to find someone exactly like them, it would be a good story - they might find someone, and then they might swap places!

Emily, thank you very much :)

The observant among you may have noticed that the title has been used for a Hollywood film, and in fact the two versions of The Parent Trap (one with Hayley Mills in the double role and the other featuring Lindsay Lohan) simply relocated Kästner's story to the US.  According to Wikipedia, there have also been numerous German film adaptations of the novel :)

It's a very clever book and a story which is far more sophisticated than might first appear.  Written in the 1940s, its handling of divorce was quite advanced for its time, and the idea of children organising their parents' lives was no less controversial.  The English version is very well written, with plenty of wry asides, but then, you'd expect nothing less.  It's translated by Anthea Bell, the woman responsible for the English voice of Zweig, W.G. Sebald and... Astérix!

(More from Emily:
E: So the book was from a different language?
T: Yes, the translator had to read the book and rewrite it in English.
E: So she's a bit like a re-author?)

In short, it's well worth a read (for both young and old), and Emily is already eyeing off the next of the Pushkin Children's books.  However, I think I might just hide them for a few days - at the rate she reads, I'll be spending all my time writing reviews in the near future...