Cover image for The pollen room : a novel
The pollen room : a novel
Jenny, Zoë.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Blütenstaubzimmer. English
Publication Information:
New York : Simon & Schuster, [1999]

Physical Description:
143 pages ; 22 cm
Added Author:
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Material Type
Home Location
Central Library X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In the half-lit world of a broken home, Jo grows up afraid of the shadows and desperate for company. By age seventeen, she has learned to build her own happiness, and her fantasies of love fuel perilous experiments with drugs and sex, and a search for the mother who abandoned her years earlier. Told in the spare, haunting language of an unhappy childhood, "The Pollen Room" is a universal story of love and disillusionment. Ultimately, it is Jo's revelation about her mother's own demons that brings a bittersweet reconciliation of childhood dreams and adult reality.

"The Pollen Room" catapulted its twenty-three-year-old author to international fame upon its publication in Europe in 1997. Told with powerful insight and maturity, the novel is a testament to our times.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In spare prose and indelible images, 24-year-old Swiss first-novelist Jenny vividly details the efforts of parental neglect. Abandoned physically by her mother and emotionally by her father as a very young child, Jo is left largely to her own devices; as a kindergartner, she plays with her two best friends, Nico and Florian, her worn blue and yellow pacifiers. Years later, the newly graduated Jo seeks out her mother, Lucy, who had left her for the painter Alois. When Alois dies in a car accident, the bereaved Lucy strips his studio and strews it with pollen, and Jo takes a parental role during her mother's breakdown. Lucy's rebound to health leaves Jo even more disaffected and emotionally bereft, suffering nightmares and recalling a loveless sexual encounter and subsequent abortion, as dream and fantasy are interspread with a detached reality. A best-seller and award winner in Europe, this slim novel, which speaks particularly to adults who were children of divorce and to members of a certain generation, is more to be admired than enjoyed. --Michele Leber

Publisher's Weekly Review

Abandonment by her mother precipitates a sad and debilitating chain of events for a young girl in this elliptical coming-of-age debut novel published last year to considerable fanfare and sales in Switzerland and Germany. In prose that even in translation is limpid and fresh, Swiss author Jenny begins the first-person narrative as the mother, Lucy, departing her first marriage, leaves kindergarten-age Jo in the care of her father, a publisher of books "no one ever bought." Swiftly, deftly, Jenny captures the loneliness of a young child whose father works at his press all day and drives a delivery truck all night to make ends meet. Fifteen years later, Jo is living with her mother and Alois, an artist. When he dies suddenly, Lucy retreats into his painting studio, gathering flowers from the garden at night and spreading their pollen all over the room. Jo witnesses her mother's mental breakdown and crashes through the studio windows to save her. Lucy refuses her help, and finally runs off with no explanation to an island in the Indian Ocean. Jo is left on her own to find herself, and to find someone to love her. Though lyrical, Jenny's elusively impressionistic style, without surnames, place names and other details, unmoors the narrative. But the emotional melody about Europe's rudderless children rings true and clear. Jenny is an unmistakable descendant of postwar German authors such as Frisch, Dürrenmatt and Bachman; the anomie permeating her novel feels familiar. Rather than the depredations of war and its aftermath, however, Jenny describes the ravages of the late 20th century: drugs and raves; AIDS; neglectful, divorced parents; and ersatz culture. In the world that Jenny's characters inherit, a sacred town is razed to build hotels for religious pilgrims and the organ grinder's music comes not from an organ but a CD. Jenny's indictment is powerful and compelling. Agent, Petra Eggers. Foreign rights sold in U.K, France, Italy, Greece, Korea, Norway and the Netherlands. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Already a best seller in Europe, this first novel by a 24-year-old Swiss writer is a coming-of-age story whose heroine has seen dysfunction and despair. The story is an old one‘Jo's parents split up when she is three, and she spends her formative years seeking love and understanding‘but it is elevated beyond the mundane premise by Jenny's spare and searing prose. The book is stripped bare of details as to time and place, but the few specifics are telling‘AIDS, Ecstasy, Kurt Cobain. The lack of detail heightens the sense of Jo's alienation and draws the reader into her emotional dislocation. Dreams, fantasy, and reality swirl together. Yet each scene is vividly described, as when Jo enters the "pollen room," a room of scattered flower pollen into which her mother locks herself, distraught at the death of her lover. For all public libraries with international or literary collections.‘Yvette Weller Olson, City Univ. Lib., Renton, WA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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