Though a delightful chatty read, this is also an intellectually challenging book. It is a prequel to The Magic Mountain but you won't need to be familiar with Thomas Mann to enjoy this voyage of self-discovery. The German hero succumbs to the lure of the East: an enigmatic Polish woman. But Huelle writes from a post-colonial perspective and shows Castorp being changed by his contact with a different culture.
The moment Castorp turned his gaze on them, the man leaned towards his female companion, took hold of her wrist and said: 'The situation is serious. That is politics.'
Only now, as the woman pulled her hand sharply from his grip and raised her head impulsively, did Castorp see her face. The blend of something that in a flash of intuition he immediately defined as the Slavonic type of beauty competed in her with a faraway, subtle, yet palpable breath of the East.
'I hate politics,' she said. 'You know how much. Even in my letters I cannot bear to tell you.'