Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Detour by Gerbrand Bakker

Dutch author Gerbrand Bakker's new novel, The Detour, is suffused with the quiet strength of the woman that is its focus. She is an expert on Emily Dickinson who abruptly leaves her university position in Amsterdam and rents a cottage in a remote part of Wales. She is all alone except for a small flock of geese, whose numbers mysteriously dwindle. 

Why is she there? It appears to be more than the fact of an affair with one of her students. As the  answers to what precipitated her flight become clear, another question propels the narrative. What will happen next? 

I wondered why there was some minor gay content involving secondary characters, until I realized it was included to give further examples of sexual transgressions. The human instinct for sex, however, is a sideline to the main story.

I enjoyed the spare prose style and I will be haunted by the choices made by the central character. This would be a good book for discussion.

Readalikes: The Spare Room (Helen Garner); Vital Signs (Tessa McWatt); The London Train (Tessa Hadley); Molly Fox's Birthday (Deirdre Madden).

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