Skylark – Dezco Kostolanyi (1910)

Browsing various book blogs on the interwebs is great way to come across books that are way off the best seller lists, and Skylark was one of those finds. It’s a short novel set in 1899 in a small provincial town in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Skylark is the childhood name of the spinster daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Vajkay, all of whom live a very quiet life in this quiet town. Skylark really rules the roost in this story, with both of her parents trying really hard to help her be happy as she was obviously not going to get married at any point soon, and thus, the parents’ lives revolve around her. (At this point, she is in her late twenties/early thirties, perhaps.) She is very plain to look at and suitors are not banging on the door for her.

So – Skylark is invited to go and stay with some relatives for a short holiday – it’s a holiday for Skylark and her elderly parents are very concerned that she should take it. However, having lived their lives around her for the previous years, both adults are somewhat at a loss when Skylark leaves – how would they live without her? What would they do? Would she be ok?

However, as the week without Skylark slowly progresses, her parents gradually re-introduce themselves back into the town social life: they eat at a restaurant (reluctantly at first, but then they enjoy it). They go to performances at the theater, and rejoin old acquaintances. All activities that they had stopped due to Skylark. (I am not even sure that Skylark expected her parents to withdraw from society. I think perhaps they did for her without seeing if it was even necessary. I think it was due to the fact that she had few friends and little social life, so they followed suite as well.)

After a wild night out with his old friends, the father comes home slightly worse for the wear and out come his real feelings about Skylark… But once these thoughts have been expressed, things can never be the same. Skylark returns, but to what?

The novel doesn’t actually come to a real final end – there is no clear cut conclusion to the story so the reader is left to fill in the blanks – do Skylark’s parents tell her what they were thinking? Does their new entry into society continue? How does life change? These are questions that remain unanswered.

A lovely and very quiet little book packed with details of incidental life in a small town of people who live small lives where every detail counts.  This could have been a depressing read, but the author maintains a slight twinkle of humor throughout the story… This was a good read.

(Book was translated from Hungarian by Richard Aczel.)

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