Friday, May 17, 2013

The Detour ~ Gerbrand Bakker



A woman arrives from the Netherlands and sets up home in a remote farm she rents from a local. She says her name is Emilie and that she is a lecturer researching the life on Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886). On arrival she inherits the responsibility for ten geese, but slowly one by one they disappear with the chief suspect being a fox. We learn that the reason she has left her homeland and come to this remote farm is that her life back home had become unbearable after she confessed to an affair with one of her students, which resulted in her loosing her post after it became common knowledge.

Back in the Netherlands her husband, who after a jealous outburst which involved accidently setting fire to her office, has formed a strange partnership with the police officer sent to arrest him and now they are both on her tail. Unaware of any of this Emilie meets a young man who appears to have injured himself whilst out walking his dog, he initially stays the night, but ends up staying a lot longer forming a strange relationship with Emilie.


It is very hard to describe what is happening in this book, for one thing very little does happen, meaning what you do reveal would need to be covered in spoiler alerts. More important is the realisation that what happens, very little of it is on the surface, it is as though you arrived in a mystery with only part of the facts and that for all your attempts to dig deeper – your only reward is hints, innuendo, and sly suggestion. Making this a book full of strange undercurrents of what ifs and whys, that like some dissonant background music constantly raises your awareness to this tales ambiguities, bringing with it a realisation that isn’t a tale or rural Wales with the protagonist living the good life in some primrose embroidered cottage.

Although this may be an escape to the country but from what and why? It also makes you conscious that despite what you are reading, there is so much left unsaid, so much that you are not being told. Making this a book that happens more within your head, than it does on the page, leaving you with nothing but those hints and innuendos as your means to interpret what happens on the page.


This is a strange quirky little book that skirts around issues of isolation and inner turmoil, that demurely screams it’s angst at life's tribulations. This is a quiet tragedy shot through with a dry humour that pierces all the angsts and obfuscation like the sun through the clouds on a welsh hillside.


Since reading this book which was on the International Foreign Fiction Prize longlist, it  made the cut and is now shortlisted which is wonderful, as it definitely deserves to be there, not just for the tale but also for David Colmer’s translation which made this book a beautiful and seamless read.



Gerbrand Bakker(Wiki)

International Foreign Fiction prize

Vintage /


me. said...

Really enjoyed this book, the narrative was subtle but still had an alluringly enigmatic hold, on the strength of it I'll hopefully read 'The Twin' very soon.

Suko said...

PL, this book sounds enigmatic and intriguing.

Unknown said...

Deserving of its place on the shortlist, a wonderful little book. Who knows? The IFFP panel might pick this one as their winner (I seriously doubt it though...).

Brian Joseph said...

Sounds like a book that lend itself to lots of contemplation. As I get older I find myself enjoying works that do not have a lot of plot going on.

stujallen said...

I think this books strength is the setting as he said in the interview away from distraction the story grows ,all the best stu

@parridhlantern said...

Hi Me, it seems to be a well received book by all who read it.

Suko, it is, give it a go & I'll be surprised if you don't like it.

Hi Tony, I don't think it will go all the way, but what do I know there's at least one book on the official list I'd change.

Hello Brian, Same here & this fits that category.

Hi Stu, definitely.

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