The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld

The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld

Dutch Fiction

original title –  De avond is ongemak

Translator – Michele Hutchinson

Source – review copy

I was pleased when this made the Booker longlist as I had already said I would review it today as part of a Bokenweek tour which I have taken part through over the last few years. I have long been a fan of Dutch lit so when the chance to review a book from one of the rising stars of Dutch Lit Marieke Lucas Rijneveld first came to notice with a poetry collection Calfskinwhich won a poetry prize. She grew up in the North Brabant area of The Netherlands where it is a large dairy farming area and religious as well. Her middle name was initially a fantasy friend when she was growing up but in her late teens, she took the name as a way to show her as an intermediate person. The discomfort of evening is her debut novel like the main character she also lost a sibling growing up.

“But he’s not dead” Mum said to the vet. She got up from the edge of the bath and extricated her hand from a pale blue flannel. She’d been just about to clean Hanna’s bottom, otherwise there was achance she’d get worms. They made little holes in the cabbage leaves. I .  was old ebough to make sure I didn’t get worms and I wrapped my arms around my knees to look less naked now the vet had suddenly come into the bathroom

The vet tells the mother it is fatal but this is the start of the world they know falling apart.

When ten-year-old Jas loses her older brother and one of her five siblings through a skating accident. At this point her world starts to fall apart.she is on the cusp of being a teen discovering her body but also struggling with the loss of her brother. From believing her family ios hiding Jews in the cellar aftermath of Foot and mouth is still felt in the community times are hard for the family these are dark times. From toads under her bed to strange events with cows on the farm Jas is trying to bring her brother back and help her siblings. As her mother stops eating and the father buries his head in the farm. Matthies is dead and they can’t mention him as the family struggles this is a portrait of a meltdown viewed from the eyes of a ten year but a ten-year-old with a weird way of dealing with her grief her self.

“How’s it going in the basement ?”

I don’t look at my mother but fix my gaze on  the floweery meadow on her apron, It’s possible that mum will move into the basement one day ; that she’ll find the family, the Jewish people that live there, nicer than us. What wikl hapopen to the three kings then, I don’t know: Dad is still incapable of evening heating up milk for coffeee. and if he lets it even tht boil over, how could he ever keep his children at the right temprature?

The family is spliting before Jas eyes.

This is a slow unravelling of a family through grief it is heartbreaking dark and mesmerizing at times. In the hinterlands of Holland, a ten year old narrates as her family falls apart from the loss of the eldest son. The parents are there but aren’t there this takes the book into a similar territory of books like lord of the flies. As Jas her sister and brother start to do thing that are strange and odd rituals touching animals touching each other as they have no outlet for their grief their actions turn. As they grapple with the cusp of adulthood and also sexual awakening tinged with disbelief at loss add to the odd world. I was reminded of Gerbrand Bakker twin in the setting a dairy farm in the hinterlands of holland also dealing with death. But this is a darker book than that was it is brutal death is never far away as anyone how has grown up in the countryside nature and farming can both be brutal at times. What are your thoughts on these books ? I reviewed this as part of a boken week tour her are the other stops

 

 

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lisa Hill
    Mar 16, 2020 @ 09:46:46

    So many sad books on this year’s list…

    Reply

  2. 1streading
    Mar 17, 2020 @ 19:05:09

    Looking forward to reading this.

    Reply

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  5. Derek van Dassen
    Sep 02, 2020 @ 03:35:55

    The Netherlands is a small country, in both land mass and population (17 million). They don’t necessarily feel their culture is threatened, but they do feel swamped by the huge English-language world around them. As a result, their response has been to become extremely proficient in English themselves.

    This has had a profound affect on their literature.

    One way this is evidenced is in the propensity of Dutch authors to shock. In order to get noticed, to get the outside world’s attention, they’ve taken their writing to extremes: the grosser the better. Shock certainly can have its place, but it can’t be the only thing.

    Another impact of Holland’s unique situation is that many Dutch writers end up being derivative. Authors will read the English around them and repackage it for their Dutch audience. This is fine until it gets translated back into English, and it begins to look like déjà vu.

    This brings us to Marieke Rijneveld’s The Discomfort of Evening.

    By now everyone is aware of the horrors Rijneveld describes, at great and repeated lengths: constipation and diarrhea, abuse of animals and children, improper use of farm implements on humans; ad nauseam. It’s telling that many reviewers, whether from the mainstream media or online, just abandoned the book halfway through, not because they were grossed out, but because they became bored. They stopped caring about the characters.

    Rijneveld’s book could be considered in the ‘growing-up-in-a-religious-cult-is-a-bitch’ sub-genre. But that’s been done many times before, and better. I have to wonder, giving their respective ages, if Rijneveld, as a teen, read Miriam Toews’s A Complicated Kindness, and then did the rewrite thing. I have nothing against doing a different take on the same subject, but you can’t give Rijneveld any marks for originality.

    And now The Discomfort of Evening has won the International Booker, but A Complicated Kindness never won the Booker. Why? Back to that issue of numbers: the ‘International’ is for translated works, whereas the Booker itself is for that huge, English-language market.

    It’s as simple as that.

    Derek van Dassen is a Canadian writer, formerly an op-Ed columnist for a major daily newspaper there. He is also still a Dutch citizen and an English-to-Dutch translator for close to thirty years.

    Reply

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