This novel, written in 1937, is set in the Austro-Hungarian Empire shortly before the First World War.
A young officer is invited to a soiree at the local schloss. He asks the host’s young daughter to dance and thereby inadvertently sets in train a sequence of events and, more importantly, a psychological struggle in the young man trying to cope with feelings of pity that threaten both psychologically and practically to take over his life. This ‘pity’ is for him relentlessly cruel in the way that it buffets him this way and that.
The story is well grounded in the backdrop of a small garrison town, where the officer’s cavalry unit is based, a few hours train journey from Vienna. As readers we know what will befall much of that old Empire’s army and that lends a certain poignancy to descriptions of the life of the young officers both on and off the parade ground.
The author succeeded in making me feel so involved in all the shifting emotions, not just of the young lieutenant, but of the other main characters as well. I was glad that that this novel has been reissued.