From Donald Rayfield's review in Literary Review:
'Ivana Dobrakovová is well known in her native Slovakia as a translator of Elena Ferrante. In Bellevue she shows even greater ability than Ferrante to get into the mind of a rebellious adolescent girl. Blanka, bored with her student boyfriend who does nothing but revise for his Spanish exam and eat bread and jam, takes a volunteer summer job, working with a mixed bunch of Europeans as a carer in a Marseille centre for the disabled. She clearly has no vocation and is very soon overwhelmed, first by dislike of the disabled, then by a paranoiac conviction that the disabled hate her in return. Her ensuing psychotic episode is described so convincingly (though perhaps with more than enough information about bodily fluids) that the reader will wonder if Dobrakovová did not just imagine the breakdown but actually experienced it. Yet few people who have a breakdown as severe as Blanka’s would be able to recall every stage, every hallucination, every mood swing with such graphic precision. All the other characters, such as an Algerian woman and a Slovene youth, are judged through Blanka’s eyes, now needy, now hostile, so that there are no villains or heroes in the novel, only fellow carers, more or less indifferent or well disposed to this awkward teenager. What eventually emerges is a picture, faintly reminiscent of a Camus novel, of a northerner’s alienation in a southern landscape, as well as a plausible portrayal of the carer’s dilemma: how to protect oneself from the mood and even the fate of those you care for.'
Corine Tachtiris on World Literature Today: "The novel shows us the uglier side of caregiving, when one gives in to frustration and exhaustion and thinks: Why can’t you just be well?"
European Literature Network features a text by Lucy Popescu: "Blanka’s inner turmoil is reflected in the breakdown of language, beautifully rendered in Julia and Peter Sherwood’s translation. Blanka’s speech becomes fragmented, repetitive, a stream of consciousness; she refers to herself in the second person (just as she has referred to the residents)."
"Bellevue is not a comfortable read, but nor is it meant to be: it is a brave and unflinching account of mental illness, and an unsparing critique of a world that fosters it." – Helen Vassallo on her blog Translating Women.
Daniel W. Pratt for Los Angeles Review of Books: "Svetlana misguidedly attributes Blanka’s mental illness to a continuing adolescence, effectively telling Blanka to just grow up. But Sveltana’s own image of adulthood provides no real closure, just repression, sadness, and perseverance. Unlike North American YA novels that offer either happy endings of good triumphing over evil, or lessons for the young reader, Dobrakovová leaves the reader knowing that Blanka’s struggles with mental health will continue, inconclusively, for many more years."
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