Category Archives: Dutch author

Julia – Otto de Kat

I have a soft spot for translated books, slim books and books with a wartime setting. At 168 pages, Dutch author Otto de Kat’s Julia, ticked plenty of boxes. The copy I read was a brand new one from my library which was an added treat.

Julia is a story that is as elegant and sparse as its simple title suggests. Throughout there is a sense of regret and melancholy and by the end, real sadness.

In 1938, Chris Dudock is living and working in Lübeck Germany. He is Dutch, has a girlfriend and family business waiting for him back home. The rise of Nazi power is evident, beginning to infiltrate the daily life of the German people. Chris meets and falls in love with Julia, a vibrant and free spirited German engineer who isn’t afraid of speaking out against the regime. When her brother is arrested, she pleads with Chris to leave Germany, claiming he is putting her at risk by remaining. Chris makes the biggest mistake of his life and returns to Holland.

Fast forward many years and the mature Chris Dudok has done what was expected of him. He married and took over his father’s business. On the outside he has lived a reserved yet fairly ordinary life. On the inside, there has been real emptiness – he left part of himself behind in Lübeck all those years ago.

Light on detail, Julia is a book about living with loss and the impact that one decision had on Chris Dudock’s life. The narrative (always in the third person) flicks between 1938 and the present time (1980s) with snippets of the years in between. The mood of the book reminded me of Sandor Marai’s Embers and Stefan Zweig’s The Post Office Girl – both intense stories on the subject of loss.

This story won’t be for everyone as it has a slow, reflective style rather than one with a lot of plot. I thought it was dignified and quite beautifully written. I read it as part of Iris on Books Dutch Literature Month. It looks as if it has been a popular choice.

Translated from the Dutch by Ina Rilke

2011, 168 pages

Advertisements

Rendezvous – Esther Verhoef

It was the cover of Rendezvous that attracted me to it even though I read it on kindle in the end. I really like the cover, a reflection I think of a woman stripped bare in every sense of the word.

The story is told in the first person by Simone who has moved from a fast paced life in Holland to a remote area in France with her husband and two children. They have bought a very run down old house and plan on renovating it and turning it into chambre d’hotes, a bed and breakfast. The house is in much worse condition than they orginally thought and a team of local workmen arrive to help. With them they bring temptation and danger and before long Simone’s life begins to unravel.

We know at the beginning of the story that Simone has been detained by the police for questioning. She is desperate. It takes a while before the nature of the crime is revealed.

The book is very readable, it would make a great holiday read and I know if I had been lying by a pool reading it I wouldn’t have been wanting to stop until it was finished. The story isn’t complicated, but has an element of suspense that reminded me a bit of the writing of Nicci French whose books I really like.

Translated from the Dutch by Alexander Smith.

336 pages, 2010