Love In Five Acts by Daniela Krien - Review

Love In Five Acts by Daniela Krien
Published: April 29th 2021 by Quercus Books
I received a copy of this e-book from the publisher via NetGalley. This in no way affects my review.


Five women, five chapters, five love stories. Five women attempt the impossible -to love, to be strong, and to stay true to themselves. Punchy and entirely of the moment, Love in Five Acts engaging head-on with what it means to be a woman in the twenty-first century. In the vein of Sally Rooney's Conversations with Friends.

Bookseller Paula has lost a child, and a husband. Where will she find her happiness? Fiercely independent Judith thinks more of horses than men, but that doesn't stop her looking for love online. Brida is a writer with no time to write, until she faces a choice between her work and her family. Abandoned by the "perfect" man, Malika struggles for recognition from her parents. Her sister Jorinde, an actor, is pregnant for a third time, but how can she provide for her family alone?

Love in Five Acts explores what is left to five women when they have fulfilled their roles as wives, mothers, friends, lovers, sisters and daughters. As teenagers they experienced the fall of the Berlin Wall, but freedom brings with it another form of pressure: the pressure of choice.


*May contain spoilers!*

I was sold on the premise of this book straight away, along with the fact that I had heard it was the #1 bestseller in Germany, and I have to say I wasn't disappointed! I really enjoyed this book, especially the interlinking between all of the women. It really showed how, although these were potentially more tight-knit connections, what these women went through are more or less universal experiences, or at least not uncommon, in how much their lives overlap, especially when concerning the men in their lives. As much as they were all interlinked, I do think each woman deserves to be talked about separately, as they are still very much 5 separate stories.

Paula - I feel like Paula was a strong start to the collection of stories, as you become immediately immersed with her story and her struggles. Although not everything is revealed straight away, the little tidbits about her life and her history really intrigued me! The backstory of her marriage to Ludger and how it led up to present-day was well laid-out. Interestingly, their whole argument over vaccinations seemed very topical considering the current climate, and how that fuelled further tension between them.

Judith - The moment I realised the connection between this story and Paula's, and subsequently all the others to come, felt like a very nice full-circle one. In particular, I enjoyed the sharp contrast between Judith and Paula in their approaches to love. Maybe this is why they've been friends for years! Reading Judith's story, it was clear she had difficulty committing to people in relationships but I think it helped make her more human. It showed how everyone has their own issues, whether personal like her bipolar disorder, or how even as a middle-aged woman she still had to deal with an unwanted pregnancy - something women all over the world can relate to.

Brida - I found Brida and her approach to love and relationships particularly fascinating, especially when she said, "love isn't an emotion. love isn't romance. love is an act". Brida's story came at the point in the book where I was maybe getting slightly disheartened by all these failed relationships and separated families, but maybe this is just more of a brutal reality than another unrealistic happy ending.

Malika - I really enjoyed the family element to Malika's story and how her situation contributed to defining her as a person, and how she goes about life and being in relationships. I found it interesting that Judith seemed to be the common link here, despite the fact that she presents herself as such a closed-off person. Looking back, it's so interesting seeing how Malika is portrayed in her own story as being dependent on her husband, when she is such a strong, reliable figure in her sister's life later down the line.

Joriinde - Reading the story of Jorinde and her unconventional family was a bit of a nice, refreshing change to the rest of the stories. While it still dealt with a much less significant man holding power over a strong woman, I enjoyed the fact the story wasn't purely relationship-driven. Saying this, however much her ex was no longer in the picture, Jorinde's story still showed how you can be unhappy for any number of reasons, even though she knew she was better off without him.

I found Krien's language to be absolutely beautiful, with a great translation from Jamie Bullock. Gems like "the rhythms of their lives were rarely in sync" were littered throughout, and I would love to read Krien's past works now to experience more. While not wholly relatable to me, I was fully absorbed into the lives of these miraculous women, and I thoroughly enjoyed every second.

4 stars


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