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Julia [Hardcover]

Otto de Kat , Ina Rilke
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.00
Price: 10.19 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

27 Oct 2011

One summer's afternoon in 1981, a factory owner, Christiaan Dudok, is found dead in his study having taken his own life. He has left no suicide note, but on his desk is a newspaper from 2 April 1942, reporting on the bombing of the north German town of Lübeck. The list of the dead includes the highlighted name of Julia Bender.

As a young man finishing his studies in Lübeck in 1938, Christiaan is irresistibly drawn to Julia, a courageous German who has emphatically rejected the Nazi regime. But that same year he is forced to leave both Germany and the woman he loves, even though he suspects that he is making the greatest mistake of his life. Julia is the story of a life lived wrongly, of a love so great that it endures for decades, and yet still fails.

Fear of life and loss of courage, and terrifying inhuman fanaticism are the compelling themes explored in Otto de Kat's elegantly accomplished, elegiac novel.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 168 pages
  • Publisher: MacLehose Press (27 Oct 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857050559
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857050557
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 743,263 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Extraordinary ... It is as chilling as it is sad and familiar' Irish Times.

'An excellent storyline ... vivid descriptions and easy poetic language' Historical Novels Review.

'Julia is a book that goes straight to the heart' Vrij Nederland.

'A masterpiece' Peter Henning, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

From the Inside Flap

As a young man working in Lübeck in 1938, with Germany already in thrall to the Nazis, Chris Dudok is irresistibly drawn to Julia, a light-footed, bold and libertine engineer who has emphatically rejected Hitler's new order. But that same year his courage is tested to its limits; he is forced to leave both Germany and the woman he loves, even though he suspects that he is making the greatest mistake of his life. It is only many years later, a long time after the war, that her true story comes to light. The sense of movement and purpose that gripped Germany in the pre-war years find their perfect expression in Otto de Kat's terse, poetic prose. Courage and love in extreme circumstances: this is the compelling essence of his elegantly accomplished and elegiac novel, the story of a life lived wrongly, of a love so great that it endures for decades, and yet still fails.

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Customer Reviews

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4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 4.5 Stars. Elegant and Elegiac. 27 Oct 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This heart rending story starts on a hot August afternoon in the 1980s, when the body of Christaan Dudok, a Dutch businessman is found in his study after taking an overdose that has ended his life. There is no suicide note, but next to him is found a newspaper from 1942 which carries a report on the bombing of the German town of Lubeck and with it a list of names, one of which, has been highlighted.

We then move back in time and the story is told from the perspective of Christaan, who when young and working in Lubeck in 1938, meets and falls in love with the beautiful Julia Bender, a talented German engineer. From the first moment he sees her, he is irresistibly drawn to her and somehow knows that their meeting will hold great significance for him. Both Julia and her actor brother, Andreas, are talented, courageous and value their freedom, but, when Andreas flouts the authority of the Nazi regime and Julia supports him, Christaan realizes that their days together are numbered. When the authorities arrest Andreas, and Julia just manages to escape, she tells Christaan that he must leave her and return to Holland otherwise he will jeopardise her safety and his own. Although Christiaan fears he is making a mistake in leaving, he listens to Julia's pleas and allows her to persuade him to catch the next train out of Germany and return to his homeland.

This beautifully written novel moves forwards and backwards in time and, in spare, impressionistic and poetic prose the author relates what happens to Christaan after he leaves Julia. As time passes, and we follow Christaan through his life, we come to see that he simply cannot forget Julia and how his love for her lives on. This is an elegant and elegiac novel that shows us that it is not always what we do that causes us regret, but what we fail to do that can cause us even more sorrow and remorse.

4.5 Stars.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Sensitive and moving 1 April 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This was a well written and translated story of a terrible set of events, which conveys the emotional impact on individuals very effectively.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The find of the year 13 Mar 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
When publishers are republishing the same old authors and giving us stories by 'celebrity' authors we don't want - at last, comes along a book you'll want to read.

The theme isn't new: Dutch boy falls for German girl on the wrong side of the Nazis and regrets what happened. But it isn't yet another Holocaust tale (please, we want to keep the subject alive but it is just too easy for novelists) and you don't feel as if it is a historical fiction author just doing time again...it is sparse and real with the detail added, correctly, as an aside.

Just a joy to read. Effortless.

This is elegant. It also moves us. Even if we know what's going to happen from the start. The ONLY reason I don't give 5 stars is because a) going back and forth got confusing and its too easy as a plot device b) it was short and so plot was also short on the ground.

I'd read any of his books again. Please: publishers take note. This is what we want more of.
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4.0 out of 5 stars 'un-freedom' 19 Jan 2012
Van Dijk, a driver, finds his employer Chris Dudok dead at home. A box of tablets and a bowl of porridge are nearby, 'suicide for the posh' he surmises before calling the doctor who when he finally arrives delivers a verdict of suicide with a single word

Still there must have been a fair amount of pain before getting this far.

The key to that pain is lying on the desk in front of him: a German newspaper from 1942 with a list of names on the front page circled in red. There is also has Dudok's diary, left on the backseat of the car the night before when he asked to be dropped off early so that he could walk the rest of the way home (this in itself might have been a warning sign from a man who would have been driven 'right into his study, had that been possible.') From this end point de Kat then goes back to tell Dudok's story in three different times. We go back to Lübeck, Germany in 1938 where Chris is sent by his father to gain some factory experience before taking over the family business back in Holland. He's sees the native fervour with an outsider's eye.

'The spirit of the times seized him by the throat. Crazed masses rallied on a whim, marching and parading with soldierly discipline, Lübeck thrumming with excitement for the leader's new teachings. There was no getting away from the man. He appeared not to be taken so seriously in Holland, as though his ravings were put through a strain at the border. But the artist from Vienna was crafty, in his opinion, barking mad, but very clever. The radio seemed invented expressly for him, forever blasting into people's sitting rooms. Nobody thought to switch him off.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Whoever is alone now...." 23 Jan 2012
By sdk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a remarkable short novel, beautifully written and exquisitely translated by Ina Rilke, one of the world's most gifted translators, and for my money the best translator of Dutch literature into the English language. De Kat has a precise, direct style that pierces with lasting images, especially of characters. I hope Ina Rilke's translation will bring De Kat's work to the attention of more readers. "Julia" is every bit the equal of De Kat's much-lauded "Man on the Move" and superior to his excellent, though flawed, "Figure in the Distance." If you appreciate novels of the human condition, interior struggles under extraordinary circumstances (here, of immediately pre-WWII Germany & Netherlands), then I highly recommend both Julia and "Man on the Move." Man on the Move has more action but both books concern the effect of these events on the more advantaged portions of Dutch society, especially on the soul of a generation that came of age in the pre-war period.
We feel the hand of another Rilke, Rainer Marie, whose poetry and images suffuse Julia. The novel concerns a reluctant Dutch industrialist, Chris Dudok, who returns to his homeland after a year working in Lubeck where he has encountered and fallen in love with Julia Bender, an engineer and colleague. He returns to the Netherlands to avoid danger but, most pointedly, at the urging of Julia. She saves him by insisting that he will endanger her if he remains in Germany. She stays to oppose the Nazis and in the hope of assisting her brother, Andreas, who is sent to a concentration camp for political activities. Ultimately, Dudok loses Julia to the war and his timidity, "the impotence of the self-respecting bourgeoisie" (though De Kat uses this phrase not to describe Dudok but rather the German middle classes under Hitler).
We first encounter Dudok dead, on the day of his suicide, following a lifetime of yearning and regret. The story is a sort of remembrance told on the evening and morning of his suicide: in other words, a reflection on his life as he contemplates death. De Kat borrows images from Rilke's poem, Autumn Day (the wind, the sundial, the leaves). Julia is carrying The Book of Images, the collection in which Autumn Day appears, when they meet in a cafe shortly before their separation. Although De Kat includes this nod to RM Rilke early in the book, the poem has more weight as a fragment that Dudok pens at the moment of his expiration: "Whoever has no house now will never build one, whoever is alone now will remain so for a long time." How do we read this? I am inclined to see it as a plea for courage of many kinds; the courage to live a life worth living and to grasp love firmly and never release it. This interpretation is tempered by the inherent uncertainty about the path not taken. Consider the central character in "Man on the Move"; he did not take the safe path and yet was crushed by events. Julia is a "must read" unless you cannot bear to contemplate how your decisions have shaped your life.
3.0 out of 5 stars 'Death by his own hand. "Painless." Still, there must have been a fair amount of pain before getting this far.' 30 Jun 2014
By sally tarbox - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
The novel opens with a chauffeur finding the body of his elderly boss next to a bottle of pills and a 1942 newspaper. The succeeding chapters move between Dudok as a young man,working in Lubeck in the late thirties, and his last day on earth now. As Germany teeters on the brink of war, Dudok meets the love of his life, Julia, a spirited young woman who refuses to be swept along with the herd mentality that embraces Nazism.
Their ultimatel destinies leave Dudok with a 'perennially supressed, deeply buried sense of yearning.'...
I found this rather a forgettable novel, despite the subject matter.
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