‘The Murderess’ by Alexandros Papadiamantis

My rating: 4 stars

The Murderess, a novella by the Greek author Alexandros Papadiamantis, is a story of a woman’s descent into darkness, which delves into how being born a female was considered by some to be almost a curse and a huge expense to the families. Hadoula, also known as Jannis Frankissa, had various children, three of them were women. But it was the birth of her granddaughter that awoke vile feelings in her. The consequences of these are narrated in a fast-paced manner.

At the beginning of the book, Hadoula was keeping vigil by the cradle of her sick new-born granddaughter, while remembering her past, particularly the time around her marriage and the subsequent years. She was around 60 years old and lived with two of her daughters, one of them was deemed too old to remain unmarried. Her two eldest sons had gone abroad to America and another one was in prison.

Hadoula worked as a healer and picked up herbs. She was a resentful woman who had to face many difficulties throughout her life. In order to overcome them, she had not always resorted to the most respectful methods. She had stolen money from her parents, for example. But she believed that everything her family had was thanks to her, since she had been the one who had managed the money her late husband had earned.

While looking after her granddaughter, she mused on how difficult it was to have daughters. She had to find them husbands and provide a dowry. According to her, despite girls having greater probabilities of survival, it was much better to have boys. She was obviously slowly losing her mind. Although in certain occasions her subsequent actions started to trouble her, she tried to convince herself that they were justified.

“Girls have seven lives, the old woman reflected. Not much make them ill and they seldom die. Should we as good Christians not help in the work of the angels?”

The thought process of the main character is well put forward for a short novella. The message conveyed is clear. However, the book would have gained from being slightly longer. I would have liked to read more about her interactions with other characters, particularly her daughters. On the other hand, some of the descriptions of the island Hadoula lived on were too long, although they helped to paint a clear picture of the locations she was in at each given moment.

Alexandros Papadiamantis wrote a shocking tale without resorting to melodrama and created an interesting character struggling with the definitions of right and wrong.

One thought on “‘The Murderess’ by Alexandros Papadiamantis

  1. Emma says:

    I read this a few years ago and it stayed with me.
    It’s fascinating to see a male writer of the 19th century writing such a story about the condition of women in his country.
    It’s horrible and at the same time revealing of how desperate Hadoula felt.

    Liked by 1 person

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