A Dutch woman who calls herself Emilie rents a remote farm in Wales. As an Emily Dickinson scholar it is not exactly clear what she is doing there as she sets about making the farm more homely. She is helped by a young man who one day wanders past her farm. Her husband, meanwhile, hires a detective to find out where his wife is and what she is doing there.
People who enjoyed The Twin will find much to love in Ten White Geese. It has the same contemplative and quiet qualities, it has some of its themes (isolation, loneliness, puzzles of identity), qualities of landscape and a sidenod to the numbers of animals (no sheep but geese this time), and a somewhat uneasy main character that nevertheless manages to come very close to the reader. And perhaps Bakker’s strongest point: the need to read between the lines, his ability to hint but leave untold, which only contributes to the overall feel of the book. A feel that is strangely haunting and yet – I cannot avoid it even if it feels somewhat strange – beautiful.
I admit that I read Ten White Geese before The Twin, and I think this made me more adapted to Bakker’s style of prose and thus made the latter an easier read for me. At the time, more enjoyable.. But looking back on both books, I must admit that I prefer Ten White Geese, as it delivers a more well-rounded story (not that The Twin wasn’t that, I just felt Ten White Geese was even more so). I particularly enjoyed how the narrative came full circle, in some ways, at the end.
At the same time, some of Ten White Geese‘s aspects still have me puzzled. The metaphors and imagery of The Twin was much easier to understand, somehow. The subtext is less explicit, or felt so for me. In particular, I continue to wonder what the geese stood for.
It seems I am bound to remark on title choices when it comes to the English translation of Bakker’s work. Last week I said that I think The Twin is fitting but not perfect. This time around I wonder why they chose to publish the US edition with a different title. True, the ten white geese play a role in the book, but The Detour is many times more fitting. I prefer it so much that my head refuses to think of this book as anything other than The Detour. Why, Penguin?
I am afraid this post might not convince you to pick Ten White Geese up. It is hard to do this book justice without giving too much away – even if in some ways, not that much happens (see, I cannot avoid being vague). I definitely recommend it. However, if I cannot persuade you, perhaps the IFFP judges can? (my way of saying: it won the IFFP prize this year).
Personally, I am in awe of Bakker’s beautiful and restrained prose. I cannot wait to see what he writes next. Wait – I can read Dutch, this means I have more titles available..
Other Opinions: ANZ Litlovers, Popcorn Reads, Cerebral Girl, Bibliophile by the Sea, Tony’s Reading List, Winstondad’s Blog, Curled up with a Good Book and a Cup of Tea, Lindy Reads and Reviews, Yours?
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Want to read Ten White Geese (The Detour) yourselves? I am giving away a copy of the book (you can choose which choice of title “The Detour” or “Ten White Geese” you’d prefer). To enter, please follow these guidelines:
- Open internationally, or at least to everywhere the bookdepository* ships;
- All you need to do is leave a comment on this post to state your interest;
- Make sure this comment includes an email address so I can contact you (this can be the one provided in the details section and does not have to be public);
- Extra entry: If you are participating in Dutch Lit Month and publish one or more posts about Dutch Lit. In that case, make sure you leave a link in your comment, or to add an extra comment as Dutch Lit Fortnight progresses;
- Giveaway closes on July 7, midnight. I will email the winner.