Title: Ten White Geese (original title: De Omweg)
Writer: Gerbrand Bakker (translated by David Colmer)
Publishing House: Penguin Books
Date of Publication: February 26th 2013 (first published 2010)
Rating: 5 stars
‘’Now and then, at night, sitting on the window seat and looking out into the darkness through the tendrils of an old creeper, she would notice that she wasn’t entirely alone: somewhere in the distance, there was a light. Anglesey was is that direction too and from Anglesey you could catch a ferry to Ireland.’’
A Dutch woman that calls herself ‘’Emilie’’ leaves Amsterdam for an isolated part of Wales under the shadow of the Snowdon. She flees from a ridiculous husband, laughable parents and a messy affair. Nosy neighbours can mind their own business, Emilie is fixed on isolation and silence, in the company of Emily Dickinson whose presence in her life resembles that of a rather persistent ghost. Welsh nature is enticing to this urban scholar and ten white geese become her companions. But suddenly they start disappearing, one by one, and badgers and foxes become menacing. Things change even more when a mysterious young man appears on her doorstep and is very keen on staying. Sometimes, all you really want is to be left in peace…
Through beautiful, tranquil writing, Bakker paints the portrait of a mysterious woman in a strange situation within the heart of a rugged, mystical landscape that sucks you in with its beauty and refuses to let you go. And why would go, really? Nature and its secrets, the rocks, the paths, the ponds, and Snowdon looming create a fragile, seemingly serene atmosphere. But the darkness and the howling wind are threatening, and nothing is more annoying (and dangerous…) from people who regard you as the ‘’foreigner’’ and believe they have the right to interfere. When you choose isolation, when small – talk and any kind of (feigned) intimacy drive you mad, the world becomes an extremely suffocating place.
This isn’t the kind of book of twists and action, of dozens of ‘’incidents’’ every 10 pages. This is a novel for reflection, sensual and haunting, read like a modern fable. Beautifully menacing like a snowy mountain or a stormy winter’s night…
Beautiful, poetic translation by David Colmer.
‘’That she had to be alone to do things herself. That when it comes down to it, people are always alone. That you should never let other people tell you what to do.’’