Friday, March 20, 2015

book review: The Princess of 72nd St by Elaine Kraf

The backstory: I first heard of this novel in Yelena Akhtiorskaya's Year of Reading entry this year.

The basics: The titular princess of (New York's) 72nd Street is an artist with manic depression.

My thoughts: Kraf takes the reader inside the mind of a woman with manic depression in a way that made me better understand the disease. There are moments of humor, moments of stunning insight, and moments of confusion. In some ways, the princess is an unreliable narrator, as she contradicts herself in different moments. Instead, however, I think is unreliability is what makes her reliable narrator of depression:
"I have discovered that my thoughts can become most clear and ordinary when I am thinking about the past. It is the present which breaks up into pieces like lovely flickering white moths."
This novel is slim, but it is intense, particularly in the dark times. It consumed me as I read it. As much as it transported me to New York City in the 1970's, it more transported me to the mind of the princess, which was an uncomfortable place to be at times.

Favorite passage:  "Isn’t it these strange actions--unknown, innocent, spontaneous--that tend to shape our lives?"

The verdict: Kraf's writing is as haunting as her titular character. Just as the princess has moments of radiance, so too does this book. There are moments of breathtaking beauty and emotion, and there are moments of consuming sadness.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 118 pages
Publication date: November 1, 1979
Source: library

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Princess of 72nd Street from Amazon (no Kindle edition.)

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