Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Summer reading: The Twin

I don't know how I ended up taking this Dutch first novel to the East Coast for my summer vacation. And it was sort of an anomalous experience to immerse myself in life on a cold Dutch farm while lolling on a Delaware beach in 90-degree heat. Circumstances aside, this book consumed me in the best possible way.

The Twin won this year's Impac Dublin Literary Award, and, I say humbly, their citation best explains why this book is so good. Here are two excerpts, or read the whole citation here.

Though rich in detail, it’s a sparely written story, with the narrator’s odd small cruelties, laconic humour and surprising tendernesses emerging through a steady, well-paced, unaffected style. . . .

The book convinces from first page to last. With quiet mastery the story draws in the reader. The writing is wonderful: restrained and clear, and studded with detail of farm rhythms in the cold, damp Dutch countryside. The author excels at dialogue, and [the narrator] Helmer’s inner story-telling voice also comes over perfectly as he begins to change everything around him. There are intriguing ambiguities, but no false notes. Nothing and no one is predictable, and yet we believe in them all: the regular tanker driver, the next door neighbour with her two bouncing children, and Jaap, the old farm labourer from the twins’ childhood who comes back to the farm in time for the last great upheaval, as Helmer finally takes charge of what is left of his own life.

So sunny weather in San Francisco be damned. Buy and read this precise novel now or when the fog returns. . . and thank me later.

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