Sunday, 8 May 2016

From My Shelf - Book Review: The Detour - Gerbrand Bakker

Synopsis - A Dutch woman rents a remote farm in rural Wales.  She says her name is Emilie.  She is a lecturer doing some research, and sets about making the farmhouse more homely.  When she arrives there are ten geese living in the garden but one by one they disappear.  Perhaps it is the work of a local fox.

She has fled from an unbearable situation having recently confessed to an affair.  In Amsterdam, her stunned husband forms a strange partnership with a detective who agrees to help him trace her.  They board the ferry to Hull on Christmas Eve.

Back on the farm, a young man out walking with his dog injures himself and stays the night, then ends up staying longer.  Yet something is deeply wrong.  Does he know what he is getting himself into?  And what will happen when her husband and the police arrive? (Quoted from the fly leaf).

Review -  Gerbrand Bakker is a Dutch author and his earlier book The Twin was winner of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.  The Detour has been translated from Dutch language by David Colmer.

It is important to remember the book was written by a Dutch author to make some sense.  There is one discrepancy or difference in that in 2012 there is no way a doctor would be smoking or allow a patient to smoke in his surgery in Wales. The no smoking in public places ban was well in place here.  I can forgive the author that one after all, it is fiction and anything is possible.

I enjoyed this story, it is slow, gentle and the pace suits the book.  Why has the woman fled all the way to Wales with her book and pictures of a famous American poet?  As the story unfolds we discover more about the woman and perhaps why she leaves Amsterdam for some far away, remote place.  From a bustling city to a lone farm amongst fields, a mountain and a car ride to the nearest villages and towns.  What of her husband?  What is he feeling?  Is he angry? What kind of a man is he?  I am not sure that I did get a rounded picture of him, other than wondering if he is possessive, and at the same time not really there in the marriage but too self absorbed with his running.  As for the policeman, what is his motive in helping the husband find his wife?  There are gaps here and I am not quite sure why.  Does the author want the reader to make up their minds about these characters?  What about the boy?  What is his agenda?  We learn that he hasn't just come across the farm in the manner that he tells Emilie. But why? Is it because of childhood memories or is their a darker element? So many questions and partially unanswered.  Generally, I like a proper ending where it is all clear or there is an obvious hook for a sequel. This book just leaves it up to the reader to decide who or what or if?  As far as The Detour is concerned that is okay with me.  3*

ISBN 978-1-846-55639-5
Published by Harvill Secker 2012

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