the appointment katharina volckmer review arc

(ad, gifted) The Appointment – Katharina Volckmer ARC: Review & Recommend | LATEST RELEASES

Thank you to the publisher, Fitzcarraldo Editions, for providing me with a free advance paperback copy (and a free finished paperback copy) of this book, in exchange for my honest review.

Title: The Appointment
Author: Katharina Volckmer
Publisher: Fitzcarraldo Editions
Release Date: 2nd September 2020
Genre: Literary Fiction

This book was the first paperback book I have been sent for review purposes, so I was naturally really excited. Fitzcarraldo Editions is a publisher I’ve been following for a while, and I have a good-sized collection of their iconic blue or white covers on my shelves. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity to work with them and read one of their upcoming releases. Not only did I receive the Advance copy of this book, I was also sent a finished copy of the book, which really surprised me! I had no clue I was going to get a completed copy, and it was a lovely surprise one morning a couple of weeks ago.

The way this book was described to me was intriguing, and it would’ve made me want to pick it up regardless of whether I’d heard of the publisher before or not. It’s written as a monologue, though the person the monologue is being addressed to occasionally makes off-page comments that the narrator responds to, though the addressee never actually gets to speak on the page. I’ve read my fair share of stream-of-consciousness novels and kind of expected this to be similar to those. It really isn’t. Partly because the entire novella takes place in a single scene — the eponymous appointment is our setting — and partly because our narrator is directly addressing another person, this doesn’t have the same feel as a stream-of-consciousness text.

It’s definitely a very strange book, and not suitable for younger readers. This is firmly an adult book due to the topics discussed by the narrator. It also isn’t a book suitable for anyone who doesn’t like dark humour. On the opening pages, the narrator describes a dream about Hitler. Hitler is a figure that crops up throughout the narrator’s monologue, most notably as the subject of sexual fantasy — though the narrator also claims to have invented these fantasies in order to shock a disliked therapist rather than out of any actual attraction towards Hitler. But still, this sets the tone for a lot of the book. You would be forgiven, at first, for thinking at Dr Seligman, the person to whom this monologue is addressed, is a therapist, but this is not the case. Dr Seligman’s true profession, and the reason for the appointment we are witnessing is revealed slowly, throughout the book. I’m generally not opposed to spoilers, but I do think that the way this book is written means that it has more effect if the reader discovers the nature of the appointment as the book progresses, so I’m not going to go into detail about that. I will say that things are not as they seem, and jumping to conclusions (as I did in the first couple of pages!) will probably just end up with you being proved wrong.

The characters in this novella are sparse. Of course, we have our narrator, who we learn a lot about through the course of the novella, and we have Dr. Seligman, who’s silent presence we are reminded of throughout through the frequent use of his name. Aside from that, the only other people we are introduced to in the 90 or so pages of this novella are the people our narrator refers to. We have K, the narrator’s boyfriend/lover, and the aforementioned hated therapist. Aside from these two figures, nobody else features very prominently at all. Even the therapist exists more as a point of complaint than a character in his own right. We learn a bit about K, but only in the context of his relationship with the narrator. Even the narrator remains a mysterious character. When your introduction to a character is a description of their falsified sexual fantasies, you do find it difficult to work out what is fact and what is fiction. The ultimate unreliable narrator. The narrator seems to like Dr Seligman, and doesn’t seem to have a reason to lie to him, so perhaps this monologue is truthful, but I find it hard to take the words of a self-confessed spinner of extravagant lies at face value. This made the book all the more interesting to me, though, wondering how much of this confessional is actually confessing to anything at all.

Volckmer herself is a debut author, which to me makes this book a massive achievement. It’s been described as an “audacious” book, and that’s definitely a word I would use to describe it. Volckmer is a clearly very talented writer, with a dark, clever sense of humour and lots of wit. But even so, to write this as a debut novel is bold. It’s highly satirical, and could only really have been written by a German author. Even so, apparently it hasn’t found a German publisher as yet. Volckmer’s writing is as I said before, very clever, and she pulled off what could easily seem very gimmicky without a hitch. While this is a novella rather than a novel, clocking in at around 90 pages, it could easily have felt incredibly long, as we never get to leave the appointment room and the entire book presumably takes place over the space of a couple of hours at most. Yet somehow it remained fresh and engaging throughout, perhaps at least partly due to the outrageousness of the narrator’s choice in subject matter, but also due to Volckmer’s talent as an author. While this book made me feel very uncomfortable in places, and I’m still questioning a lot of the things it presented, I really enjoyed the experience of reading it. This isn’t going to be a popular book, but it is a fascinating book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This review also posted on GoodReads and The StoryGraph.

2 thoughts on “(ad, gifted) The Appointment – Katharina Volckmer ARC: Review & Recommend | LATEST RELEASES

  1. […] The Appointment – Katharina Volckmer. 4 stars.I was gifted a free paperback of this book by the publisher, Fitzcarraldo Press, in exchange for an honest review.This is definitely not a book for everyone, so let’s start with that. It’s satirical, and extremely dark in its humour, and not for younger readers. The style is really unique, as is the form, but the content is equally as experimental. It was a fascinating reading experience, and I’m still trying to figure out if I actually liked it… You can find my review on my blog.. […]

    Liked by 1 person

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