A collection of stories drawn from the author’s long and eventful life (born in 1920).
Many are based on the author’s personal experience of life in Central Europe after the First World War.
The writing has a sense of mystery and fantasy, but always laced with a wry sense of humour.
This is a fascinating and wide ranging collection of stories, many having an almost cinematic quality from the author also being a painter. There are stories drawing on the author’s childhood and youth in Vienna, and visiting the family farm in Moravia in the aftermath of the First World War. Herta’s mother decided to leave home for Vienna as a teenager, and was taken on by a seamstress, who read to her girls while they were sewing, giving her an abiding love of literature that she passed on to her daughter. Herta experienced the rise of Nazism in Austria and Hitler’s Anchluss of the country, and several stories in this section reflect this period vividly.
In the title story, The Singing Chair, a prosperous but stressed businessman is transported into a calming universe by a ‘magic’ chair. There follow other poignant and quirky tales of passion between the sexes. By contrast, others draw on Herta’s experience of postwar Germany – her British husband was part of the British Control Commission there. In Demeter, two British officers are rivals for the love of a destitute but beautiful refugee they rescue from a bombed-out street.
Many of the stories add the ingredient of mystery and intrigue, but always permeated with the author’s characteristic humanity and wry sense of humour. The Magnolia Gown is set in the cut-throat world of the East London rag trade; Spash is a glorious short burst of fantasy as a woman visitor to Vienna’s Schönbrunn Palace during a heatwave is lured into the baroque fountain to become one of Neptune’s mermaids.