Tag-Archive for ◊ whereabouts ◊

Author:
• Sunday, November 01st, 2015

Gerbrand Bakker was born in 1962 in Wieringerwaard, Holland. He studied Dutch language and worked as a subtitler for nature films on Dutch television for several years as well as a skating instructor during the winter before becoming an accredited gardener in 2006. Bakker says that writing and gardening complement each other.

Bakker’s first novel, The Twin, was published in 2006 and won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. His second novel, June, was published in 2009. The Detour, Bakker’s third novel, won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and was published in Dutch in 2010 and in English in 2012.

The Detour is the story of a middle-aged Dutch woman who calls herself Emilie. On what seems a sudden impulse, she rents a farmhouse in a remote area of North Wales, leaving everything behind in Amsterdam – all her worries, her husband and both her parents without telling anybody about her whereabouts.

Emilie, who only took the farmhouse on rental and is not likely to remain in it for long nor had the intention to and despite been given short notice from the agency to leave in a matter of a few days, is nevertheless working hard to embellish the wild and desolate garden and surroundings. She also purchases a Christmas tree as well as a television set. In her endeavour, she is trying to bury her past by finding peace and comfort physically and mentally as a therapeutic pass time.

Emilie spends her days gardening, walking, admiring the far away sea and nature around her, observing an aggressive badger who sneaks out of his den and bites her foot. She puzzles about the flock of white geese in her yard which were ten when she arrived but keep on disappearing one after another, she tries to save them from what she thinks might be a fox, but fails. Their curious disappearance will never be solved like other inexplicable mysteries in the story.

Emilie’s solitary confinement comes to an end when Bradwen, a young Welsh man from the area, who is mapping a walking trail across the country and across Emilie’s farm yard, gets injured near Emilie’s farm. She offers him shelter but he ends up staying with her longer than the expected one night. Bradwen will prove to be a good companion, being taciturn like her. He will also prove to be a good help around the house and the garden. A certain understanding combined with a tender relationship creates a bond between them.

The story moves back and forth between Emilie’s new life in Wales and her husband Rutger’s life in Amsterdam. Rutger is baffled by his wife’s unexpected disappearance and seeks the help of a detective to trace her whereabouts. Once located, the husband with the help of a policeman who arrested him earlier for setting Emilie’s university office on fire out of anger and who meantime became his friend, both set sail and go on Emilie’s trail.

The reader unravels Emilie’s enigmatic world slowly, but not fully, in little strokes by half-said words, through meditations and several reminiscences. We discover that Emilie is a lecturer at the university and that she is preparing a thesis on the nineteenth century reclusive American poet Emily Dickinson. We also assume that she has an unhappy marriage.

Seeking anonymity in her escape and wanting to put an end to any past connection and create a vacuum by keeping her distance with everybody, she borrows the name of Emilie from the poet Emily Dickinson that she had a sort of love hate feeling towards and looked upon in disdain in spite of being aware of similarities in character between the poet and herself. The author throughout the novel draws the similitude between the two Emilies.

The reader also discovers that the story’s main protagonist fled Holland after the university scandal as a result of having an affair with a student which ended her academic career. Additionally, she seems to be suffering from an undisclosed, incurable disease. After receiving a card from her husband telling her he is on his way to fetch her, the message hastens her final, inevitable decision before her husband’s arrival. At the abrupt end of this haunting story we learn, for the first time, from Rutger that his wife’s real name is Agnes.

The detour is also a tribute to nature which is a prominent character in this well written, slow-paced and yet gripping novel. The author, being a gardener by profession, features the beauty of nature in what remains an overall gloomy atmosphere. He describes the part of North Wales – he said he visited a number of times – in great detail. The idyllic Welsh wildlife, the surrounding trees, the plants, the green hills, Mount Snowdon and the varying climate, not forgetting the animals, being part of nature.

Emilie who is clearly grieving over her past life and over her deteriorating state of health, is a tormented soul seeking an impossible, unattainable peace within herself, forgetting that it’s impossible to escape from oneself by fleeing. Instead of confronting her problems with some pragmatism, she stages an inevitable, abrupt, harsh ending to her life. The sombre atmospheric setting of The Detour is like Emily Dickinson’s poems – it’s about Life, Love, Nature. Time and Eternity as well as Death.

The title of the novel implies that Emilie is taking a detour maybe in order to be isolated among the beautifully remote Welsh nature or perhaps to enjoy her own company away from everything and before her final and ineluctable destination or perhaps destiny. Bakker has definitely left his reader to draw his/her own conclusion.

Author:
• Saturday, February 26th, 2011

Susan Isaacs was born in 1943 in Brooklyn, New York. She received her education at Queens college. She worked as a senior editor at Seventeen magazine, which she had to give up after the birth of her first child and worked from home as a freelance.

Her breakthrough came with her first novel Compromising Positions, published in 1978 which was chosen by the Book of the Month Club, became a best seller and was later made into a film. In the 1980s she wrote the screenplay for Paramount’s.

She received Writers for Writers Award, The Marymount Manhattan Writing Center Award and the John Steinbeck Award. She is the chairman of the board of literary organisation, Poets and Writers and was a president of Mystery Writers of America. She is also a member of the National Book Critics Circle, the Creative Coalition, PEN, The American Society of Journalists and Authors, the International Association of Crime Writers and Adam Round Table.

Susan Isaacs, New York Times best selling author and critically acclaimed, has written several novels which were translated into many languages. She has also written essays, screenplays and political articles. She has reviewed books for The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and Newsday.

She married a lawyer in 1968 and became a mother of a son who is now a corporate lawyer and a daughter who became a philosopher. She now lives with her husband in Long Island.

Any Place I Hang My Hat was published in 2004.
Her latest novel, As Husbands Go was published in July 2010

Any Place I Hang My Hat is about Amy Lincoln, who is the main character and also the narrator.
Amy Lincoln is an intelligent, hard working, self made, witty young woman. After obtaining degrees from an exclusive boarding school and excellent universities, such as Harvard and Columbia school of journalism, by acquiring scholarships, Amy succeeds in winning a good job as a political reporter in the serious, prestigious weekly magazine, In Depth. She manages to take herself in hand, pull herself out of the dreary and poor beginning she had and propels herself into a brighter future with a promising stature.

Life hasn’t been kind to Amy, she was abandoned by her mother soon after birth and separated from her father, Chicky, who was constantly in prison due to petty theft. Amy was brought up in one of the poor areas in New York by her shoplifter paternal grandmother, Lil, a part time leg waxer in a beauty saloon for privileged women.

Due to the harsh reality Amy had to face since her birth, she became vulnerable as well as lonely but neither helpless nor without resources. Covering a political fund-raising event, Amy discovers a college student, Freddy Carrasco, who claims to be an illegitimate son of a Democratic presidential candidate, senator Bowles. After meeting with Freddy Carrasco, befriending him and listening to his story, Amy’s long buried yearning to find out the whereabouts of her mother and her maternal family, grows stronger. Now that she is approaching her thirties she goes hunting for the truth and seeking answers about her past before starting a family of her own.

Through her quest and using her reporting competence, she finds a way to arrange a meeting with her grandmother and then her mother. After the confrontation, Amy will discover who she is and what she is, which will help her psychologically and mentally to find “a place to hang her hat”. This place will be with her ex-boyfriend, John Orenstein, the documentary film maker, that she has been longing to go back to.

Susan Isaacs explains to her readers the meaning of the novel’s title when referring to her friend Tatty going back to live with her parents after her failed marriages, although they didn’t care about her. Tatty “claimed she’d come back for the kitchen where she made her cakes. I’d often suggested she was still seeking the love these two ought to have had for her, being her parents. But maybe it was simpler. Everyone needs a place to hang her hat.”

In her book the author adopts a great deal of sarcasm, stereotype characters and sometimes very funny passages to illustrate the interesting personality of her heroine. Despite being anticlimactic, Any Place I Hang My Hat is a pleasant, light hearted, easy to read novel.

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