J. P. Hartley considered this one of his best works, though I found it not to be nearly as captivating as his book The Go-Between.
In this novella, Lavinia Johnstone is touring Vienna with her mother, who is desperately trying to set up a marriage for her daughter. Lavinia has had plenty of suitors, but none that she will consider. The pressure by her mother and the boredom she finds amid the mostly American fellow travelers that her mother only see fit to socialize with, she begins a diary. The diary is interesting in that it evolves from more than her troubles with her mother and lack of freedom to do as she chooses, into a sort of alternate life. Here, she can express her feelings for a gondolier that she has become infatuated with.
Hartley uses this as an exploration into hidden desires and longing, and the almost stalker-like methods Lavinia uses to secure rides with the gondolier. These seem a bit overdone. In her diary, she begins to call herself by a different name and some actions are carried out under that guise. It is a rather big leap to put all together in novella form.
I think if this was spun out more slowly as in a novel format, I might have enjoyed it more. The Go-Between addresses similar themes but in longer form, and for me is still one of my favorite books.
Rating: 3 stars.