This March commemorates the 85th annual Boekenweek. It’s a festival celebrating Dutch and Flemish literature and this year’s theme is “rebels and dissenters.” How wonderful!
Boekenweek | The Darkness that Divides Us
Thanks to World Editions, I’m participating in Boekenweek by reading and reviewing The Darkness that Divides Us by Renate Dorrestein, an important contemporary writer from the Netherlands.
This is a gripping tale of Lucy, a young Dutch child, whose life is changed forever when an incident on a stormy night sends her mother to prison for murder.
I found the story both chilling and captivating. And shrouded in mystery.
Broken into three parts, the first is told from the voice of observers, so the reader isn’t quite sure what happened to Lucy (then age 6) on that fateful night.
When the narrator switches to Lucy in the second part, the reader doesn’t learn much more. Turns out Lucy, now 12, is wilfully forgetting the past. Or perhaps repressing her memories.
It’s not until the final part when Lucy at age 18 finally confronts her past, her memories and her guilt. We all learn together what happened when she was an innocent six-year-old child. I cheered in hope that the truth would finally set her free so she could face the future with her former zeal.
The Darkness that Divides us asks an important question about whether looking back or moving forward is the important thing. It also circles around the themes of how keeping secrets separates you from freedom and telling the truth, although horrible at the time perhaps, will save you from prison, real or imagined.
I found the literary devices Dorrestein chose intriguing (she writes the first section as a collective “we”—three six-year-olds!). Her writing challenges me to try new, more daring writing styles.
This is not something I would normally read but I’m glad I did, for many reasons.
The Darkness that Divides Us Synopsis
Beautiful, happy people? No.
Lucy is the most popular girl in the local elementary school of an idyllic Dutch housing estate. When a bizarre crime rocks her world and sends her mother to prison, Lucy is turned into an outcast and her childhood becomes an ordeal of constant, vicious bullying. After her mother’s release, Lucy’s family decides to escape and make a clean start on a rugged Scottish island. But even here, in this remote corner of the world, Lucy’s past holds a firm grip on her. Told in the alternating voices of the bullies and Lucy, this darkly atmospheric and emotionally gripping story is part family drama and part mystery.
In the Netherlands, Boekenweek (Book Week) is an annual celebration of literature, happening every Spring since 1935. Events are held across the country during Boekenweek, and include book signings, readings, and panel discussions. Every year, a well-known Dutch author is asked to write a novella specifically for Boekenweek that is given out for free in bookstores to each customer who purchases a book. These books then act as tickets for a free train ride anywhere in the country. In 2016, World Editions author Esther Gerritsen (Roxy, Craving) wrote the Boekenweek gift of which 600,000 copies were handed out.
Other Fiction Reviews
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