It is 1900, give or take a few years. The Vajkays-call them Mother and Father-live in Sarszeg, a dead-end burg in the provincial heart of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Father retired some years ago to devote his days to genealogical research and quaint questions of heraldry. Mother keeps house. Both are utterly enthralled with their daughter, Skylark. Unintelligent, unimaginative, unattractive, and unmarried, Skylark cooks and sews for her parents and anchors the unremitting tedium of their lives. Now Skylark is going away, for only a week it's true, but a week that yawns endlessly for her parents. What will they do? Before they know it, they are eating at restaurants, reconnecting with old friends, attending the theater. And this just a prelude to Father's night out at the Panther Club, about which the less said the better. Drunk, in the light of dawn, Father surprises himself and Mother with his true, buried, unspeakable feelings about Skylark. Then, Skylark is back. Is there a world elsewhere, beyond life's daily monotonous grind and creeping disappointment? Not only for Mother and Father, but for Skylark, too?
This question is unanswerable, but the crystalline prose, perfect comic timing, and profound human sympathy that make Dezso Kosztolanyi one of the masters of European literature conjure up a tantalizing beauty that lies on the far side of the irredeemably ordinary. To that extent, Skylark is nothing less than a magical book.
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