Seven Years

Peter Stamm

Seven Years

Alex has spent the majority of his adult life torn between two very different women-and he can't make up his mind. Sonia, his wife and business partner, is everything a man would want. Intelligent, beautiful, charming, and ambitious, she worked tirelessly alongside him to open their architecture firm and to build a life of luxury. But when the seven-year itch sets in, their exhaustion at working long hours coupled with their failed attempts at starting a family get the best of them. Alex soon finds himself kindling an affair with his college lover, Ivona. The young Polish woman who worked in a Catholic mission is the polar opposite of Sonia: dull, passive, taciturn, and plain. Despite having little in common with Ivona, Alex is inexplicably drawn to her while despising himself for it. Torn between his highbrow marriage and his lowbrow affair, Alex is stuck within a spiraling threesome. But when Ivona becomes pregnant, life takes an unexpected turn, and Alex is puzzled more than ever by the mysteries of his heart. Peter Stamm, one of Switzerland's most acclaimed writers, is at his best exploring the complexities of human relationships. 3.9 out of 5 based on 7 reviews
Seven Years

Omniscore:

Classification Fiction
Genre General Fiction
Format Hardcover
Pages 272
RRP
Date of Publication May 2012
ISBN 978-1847085092
Publisher Granta
 

Alex has spent the majority of his adult life torn between two very different women-and he can't make up his mind. Sonia, his wife and business partner, is everything a man would want. Intelligent, beautiful, charming, and ambitious, she worked tirelessly alongside him to open their architecture firm and to build a life of luxury. But when the seven-year itch sets in, their exhaustion at working long hours coupled with their failed attempts at starting a family get the best of them. Alex soon finds himself kindling an affair with his college lover, Ivona. The young Polish woman who worked in a Catholic mission is the polar opposite of Sonia: dull, passive, taciturn, and plain. Despite having little in common with Ivona, Alex is inexplicably drawn to her while despising himself for it. Torn between his highbrow marriage and his lowbrow affair, Alex is stuck within a spiraling threesome. But when Ivona becomes pregnant, life takes an unexpected turn, and Alex is puzzled more than ever by the mysteries of his heart. Peter Stamm, one of Switzerland's most acclaimed writers, is at his best exploring the complexities of human relationships.

Reviews

The New York Times

Sarah Fay

Related in Stamm’s spare, reticent prose, Alex’s inability to be honest with Sonia and his mistreatment of Ivona appear less as evidence of a flawed character than as documentation of the larger conflict between desire and reality. With its understated descriptions and cool perceptions, Stamm’s fiction (demonstrated in the earlier stories and novels that have been translated into English: “Unformed Landscape,” “On a Day Like This” and “In Strange Gardens and Other Stories”) explores the tendency to experience two incongruous emotions or sensations simultaneously: attraction and disgust, warmth and estrangement, anxiety and liberation.

25/03/2012

Read Full Review


The Observer

Adam Mars-Jones

The book is cool and immensely accomplished, told retrospectively in a way that seems to flatten suspense (we know, for instance, that the marriage survives one bad patch, and that Alexander and Sonia have a young daughter) while bringing out the half-tones that shadow even the most apparently clearcut decisions.

04/05/2012

Read Full Review


The Daily Telegraph

Anthony Cummins

I love this novel but I’ve no idea what to make of it. Maybe that “but” should be an “and”, because the thing I like best about Seven Years is that it gives you little clue as to why its main character behaves so badly. It has the makings of an existential classic, yet sows mystery without once being opaque – it’s deliciously, deceptively easy to read.

26/04/2012

Read Full Review


The Times

Neel Mukherjee

Stamm has allowed very little entry into the heads of the two women, Sonia and Ivona, in this unflinching spin on that oldest of all stories. The interpretive space this gives the reader seems inexhaustible. The triangulation becomes a meditation, cool and pellucid, on what ties or unbinds a man and a woman, about whether desire fastens or liberates. Narrated by Alex, Seven Years springs surprises that are retrospectively explosive, for the calm surface of its austere, even parched, prose lulls us into believing, wrongly, that it is bleached of emotion.

07/04/2012

Read Full Review


The Literary Review

Leyla Sanai

Stamm’s writing, expertly translated from the German by Michael Hofmann, is deadpan and economical, lucid and direct. This immediacy is hypnotic, immersing the reader in Alex’s cold yet grimly fascinating mindset. Stamm’s technique is to render grotesque actions comprehensible, and to make us understand, if not condone, them.

01/05/2012

Read Full Review


The Guardian

Toby Litt

Brilliantly translated by Michael Hofmann, Peter Stamm's prose comes across as relentlessly undemonstrative. Yet it is booby-trapped throughout, with devastations waiting to happen – there's one here, in the plain word "project", hidden just behind the cliché "time stood still". "It wasn't pleasure that tied me to [Ivona], it was a feeling I hadn't had since childhood, a mixture of freedom and protectedness. It was as though time stood still when I was with her, which was precisely what gave those moments their weight. Sonia was a project. We wanted to build a house, we wanted to have a baby, we employed people, we bought a second car … we were never done."

04/05/2012

Read Full Review


The Daily Mail

Stephanie Cross

Weaving back and forth in time, Stamm’s tale of obsession is one in which love has little place. Alex is hardly likeable and at times repellent, yet the convincing murkiness of his psyche is compelling. And while Stamm’s simple but strong plot has a distinct thrillerish frisson, his intelligence is clearly, impressively evident throughout.

03/05/2012

Read Full Review


©2013 The Omnivore