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Last House Before the Mountain

by Monika Helfer

Last House Before the Mountain by Monika Helfer X
Last House Before the Mountain by Monika Helfer
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  • Published Apr 2023
    192 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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There are currently 22 reader reviews for Last House Before the Mountain
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Jo S. (Tonganoxie, KS)

Lovely story but disjointed translation
Monika Helfer's family story is interesting and would be captivating if not for the disjointed writing style which may have something to do with the translation. The story is about a family living in Western Austria during WWI and centers on a women named Maria and her children coping and surviving the trauma of war and a hostile community. The story is told through Maria's granddaughters memories and from other family members who related their stories to her.

Book clubs will find much to discuss about the price of war isolation, family, trauma and community architecture. The characters are interesting and I liked that she used a child's POV to tell the story, but at times it was hard to follow the jumping plot and rambling storylines. The fact that the book is only 175 pages long saves it in my eyes because the story was good but I do not think I could have tolerated the writing style past 200 pages! A solid 3-stars for the plot.
Power Reviewer
Donna W. (Wauwatosa, WI)

Last House Before the Mountain
This is the story of a family living through a war. Maria is the mother left at home with the children, while her husband Josef goes off to war. It is a beautiful, rich story but the fact that it was told across several generations proved to be a problem for me. There was so much jumping around in sequence, that it just felt like interruptions in the telling of the story.

The story is told by Maria's granddaughter. She tells the story in its own time, but then will add things from her own life so it is sometimes difficult to know where you are in time.

A lovely story but told in a disjointed manner. I would probably give it 3 and 1/2 stars.
Ted R. (Saint Paul, MN)

Better left unsaid
A multigenerational story that follows a family through WWI Austria, Last House Before the Mountain fails to capture the dynamics of love and loss we might expect. If one is going to write the story of their family, they should make sure to create characters the reader will find interesting and tell a story that makes the reader want to join in their journey. Last House does neither. Perhaps it is the original text or perhaps it loses something in the translation to English, but Last House is a slow and tedious read.
Sally H. (Homosassa, FL)

Last House Before the Mountain
I suppose this was an interesting story, but I was so distracted by the writing style that I found it difficult to concentrate on it. Sentences were incomplete and choppy, perhaps due to translation, perhaps the author's style, or perhaps a combination of the two. In any case, surely the translator knows that "But unfortunately." is not a complete or meaningful sentence. I also found the back-and-forth, who-am-I-talking-about-now style confusing and irritating. Honestly, I would not recommend this book; the story just doesn't redeem the writing.
Jean B. (Naples, FL)

Negative review
I could not identify with the people in this novel. It was like reading about a puppet show --the characters don't seem human or real. I kept wondering if that was the intention of the author. I read the glowing reviews written by other authors and it was hard to believe we had read the same book. I wondered if it was a poor translation and wished I could read it in the author's language. It was impossible for me to understand how a novel with wooden characters could be described as "spellbinding."
Janet H. (Long Beach, CA)

Dark and Disappointing
Last House Before the Mountain, a Novel by Monika Helfer was thankfully brief: 175 pages of of trying to figure out who fathered a child while the mother's husband was away at war. It was, at times, difficult to tell who was being discussed. Most characters came to a sorry end: death from appendicitis, death from AIDS, death from blood poisoning. If you like dark books that are difficult to follow and filled with less than honorable, admirable characters, then this is the book for you.
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