Translated novella-- mom died; older son very sad and drowned
June 9, 2018 7:23 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to locate one of my childhood favorite novellas. I read it in Chinese in Taiwan (in the early 1990s), but I'm certain that it was originally written in a romantic or anglo language. Plot deets below. Any possibilities that come to your mind will be appreciated!!

The book was already old when I read it as a kid, so I think it may have been published in the 1980s, which meant the original may have been 1960s or earlier.

The protagonist is a boy of about 12 or 13. His name would have been a variation of Andrew/ Andreas/ Andre. Andrew is healthy and strong-willed. He has a brother who is significantly younger, very weak in constitution, and is always getting sick. Andrew's mother had just died (from consumption, I think, or some other chronic illness) in the beginning of the book. His father is emotionally distant and absent. The first part of the book is all about how desperately Andrew tried to keep his sorrows about mom to himself, and how he channels all of his feelings into taking amazing care of his sickly baby brother. He also tried extremely hard to cheer up his father to no avail. There was one scene where Andrew tried to wash dad's car to give dad a surprise, and brother wanted to help. Brother got himself soaked and then immediately got very sick, and then Andrew got in trouble and felt all kinds of guilty and self-loathe.

Then Andrew, missing his father, went into his father's study to feel close, and found a cassette tape in a tape player. On the tape was his mother's voice. Andrew couldn't get out of his head how much he'd missed her, so he went back later and tried to play the tape again, but inadvertently erased the tape. He was extremely sad and freaked out, and went to...his uncle? an uncle-like figure. And then somehow he ended up at a bar, and the bartender poured him a shot of liquor when the bartender heard what had happened. This was how Andrew learned to drink his sorrows. Then shit hit the fan-- dad found out about the tape and was outraged, and Andrew got very drunk, and then somehow baby brother also got extremely sick, and Dad told Andrew to get lost. Then Andrew with all the feelings wanted to do something for his brother.
I forgot specifically what, but it involved him climbing to the tip of a tree branch over a small river. The branch snapped, he fell in, and drowned or became fatally injured. He got to hear his Dad and brother say that they were sorry and that they loved him, then he died.

I read this book repeatedly when I was about 10, but it wasn't printed as a children's book-- I had taken it from my Dad's bookshelf (please feel free to make all the logical leaps about my childhood and the psychological forces that had driven me to read that book). I would really like to know the name of the book-- any ideas would be much appreciated!

p.s. I think in the book Andrew's family was rich and had a butler. Also there was a scene about him taking the disgusting vitamins his brother was prescribed for but detested.

p.p.s. The Chinese translated title for this book was "ai de gu shi" (a story of love). I'm 50% sure that the original wasn't in English though (but I don't know why). Maybe French.
posted by redwaterman to Grab Bag (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Sounds like "Misunderstood" by Florence Montgomery. Or maybe a retelling of "L'Incompreso", the film adaptation of the same book? As some details you mention seem to come from the film and not the original book.
I have never seen the film but it is a minor classic in Europe.
posted by bluedora at 6:23 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


YES!!!!!!! THIS IS IT!! THANK YOU!
posted by redwaterman at 9:50 AM on June 10


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