The 2010 International IMPAC Dublin Award winning book was The Twin by Dutch writer Gerbrand Bakker.
This novel tells, the mesmerizing and beautiful story of Helmer, a man caring for his dying father and the farm where they live together. The story is slowly, gently revealed as we come to know a man who finds he has a second chance at life. The Twin so perfectly captures the landscape of Holland – especially the farmland near Monnickendam, Marken and Volendam, a short distance from Amsterdam. The land is flat, riddled with canals; sheep and cows graze outside these villages where dikes hold back the sea.
I read that Gerbrand Bakker is a gardener by trade, and works as a skating teacher in the winters. I can picture him in the landscape about which he writes and captures so perfectly. Not only is it described with his words – each one so obviously selected with great thought – but also in the pace of the words, the sentences, the paragraphs. He is quoted as saying, “in the autumn when I rake the dead leaves I can do it for hours – once I even disturbed a pile I'd made so I could go on raking.”
The sound is so wonderful: it lets you think in a subconscious way, in the back of your mind.”
His new novel The Detour is as good as – better perhaps – than the first. The Detour takes us from Holland to Wales.
A Dutch woman has rented a farmhouse in Wales – we know she has left her husband and her home but it is only as the story unwinds that we discover why.
Each chapter reveals just a little more about the woman, her new neighbours, her marriage and why she has chosen to be where she is.
The novel is so beautifully paced, we are led just a little closer, and a little farther, into her world. She is a woman alone, with a complicated relationship with the poet Emily Dickinson.
There are books and there are books - this is a novel that satisfies in every way – you will enjoy the simple pleasure of reading the words – you will think about life, love and loneliness – and you will remember this book long after you have finished reading.