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The Detour Hardcover – 1 Mar 2012


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harvill Secker (1 Mar. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846556392
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846556395
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 2.4 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 733,985 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"A novel of restrained tenderness and laconic humour."
--J.M. Coetzee

"Stealthy, seductive story-telling that draws you into a world of silent rage and quite unexpected relationships. Compelling and convincing from beginning to end."
--Tim Parks

"Bakker's outstanding debut novel, set in the Dutch countryside, is one of those rare works of fiction that everyone should read."
--"Irish Times"

Intelligently thoughtful --Irish Times

'Quietly astonishing.' --Jonathan Gibbs, Times Literary Supplement

Book Description

Winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, this is the new novel, set in the UK, from the author of the IMPAC Dublin prize-winning bestseller The Twin

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Susie B TOP 100 REVIEWER on 8 April 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A Dutch woman arrives in North Wales and rents a remote cottage near to Mount Snowdon; she says her name is Emily; she is a college lecturer and is working on a thesis of the poet, Emily Dickinson. She wastes no time in changing things in the cottage to make it more homely and appealing, firing up the AGA, lighting the wood burning stoves, moving furniture and setting up a cosy study in one of the bedrooms. She even has plans to alter the garden, by planting roses and starting work on a slate garden path. Whilst working in the garden, Emily notices there are ten fat, white geese in the field next to her drive which, worryingly, begin to decrease in number as the following days pass.

As the story develops, we learn that Emily is trying to escape from someone, or something; we know that she is
married and we know that she recently had an affair with one of her students; we also know that she is suffering from a physical, but unnamed ailment. In Holland, her husband, alarmed by her disappearance visits her parents in order to discover if they have any knowledge as to where she might be and, when this is unsuccessful, he begins a friendship with a local police detective and together they make plans to trace Emily. Meanwhile, back in Wales, Emily, who initially relished the solitude in her cottage, starts to feel rather unsettled and when a young man literally stumbles into her life, she rather surprisingly invites him into her home and, at first, seems happy for him to stay there. Yet something is not quite right - but will the young man be perceptive enough to realize just what the problem is?

This is a beautifully written, moving and rather unusual story of longing, loneliness, inner turmoil and a certain kind of grief.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Ripple TOP 500 REVIEWER on 29 Feb. 2012
Format: Hardcover
Gerbrand Bakker's Dutch novel, "The Detour" translated by David Colmer, is a very odd story indeed. Mostly set in Snowdonia, the book tells the story of a Dutch woman, who gives her name as Emilie, who rents a remote farm. She's clearly on the run from something, perhaps an affair with a student at the university where she was researching the works of Emily Dickinson, but it increasingly becomes clear that this is only part of the story. Certainly her husband and parents back in the Netherlands have no clue where she has gone - or why. Once these details are established, the book takes a turn to the seriously odd which is more of a full blooded journey rather than a mere "detour".

Why do the geese in the adjoining field keep disappearing? Why does Emilie attract the attentions of a rabid badger? Who is the strange young rambler who enters into the story and ends up staying with Emilie? How does the husband's private investigator track her down and what on Earth is going on with the strange relationship that the husband develops with the gay Dutch police officer? How does the local doctor manage to flout the law and chain smoke through consultations with patients? These are all valid questions, only a few of which you will find an answer to here.

The other thing to note is that it is a very styled book. The chapters are short (Bakker manages to get an impressive 60 chapters in a comparatively short book) and the sentences are often equally brief. The dialogue reminded me of Harold Pinter in that characters seem to talk at and across each other rather than communicate with each other. The effect of these styles is that the book is somewhat cold.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ann Fairweather TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 6 April 2013
Format: Paperback
I just finished the book and as a delayed boomerang effect, as I was meditating on this odd, strange story, the whole unwritten content hit me and deeply moved me. The book is odd because you are reading words and sentences but the real story is always left unsaid, as if you were reading the shadow of a story. The effect is puzzling, unsettling, disturbing and very poetic. Emily Dickinson's ghost indeed haunts the book at all time. I loved how sparse, essential the writing is, mirroring the inner state of 'Emilie', a woman going through traumatic times and forced to find the essential in herself and in life. Yes she encounters an aggressive badger, regularly lose geese to the fox and befriends the 'boy's dog, but you feel all these animals are symbols for something else. I don't think it is fair on the book to tell the story here because it has a magic at being discovered slowly and knowing what happens or the reasons of this'n that in advance, will not enhance the reading in any way. Let's just say that it is set in a lonely house somewhere in Wales and the atmosphere had me hooked from the start. Who is this woman? why has she fled from her husband and her life in Amsterdam? Who is this strange policeman joining the husband so readily in his search for her? Everything is revealed in time yet, not fully. It is a superb novel, one of a striking sad beauty that will stay with you in a clear light, yet imbued in mystery.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm not quite sure what to make of this book. I didn't find it as gripping as `The Twin', but I think I might be missing something as I've read reviews which prefer this novel. Both books deal with themes of loneliness and impending death. Whereas `The Twin' is set in the author's native Holland, `The Detour' takes place in Wales, a landscape the author does not know as intimately, and this shows. A married woman (Emily), an ex-lecturer specialising in the poetry of Emily Dickinson, flees both her troubled marriage and her country and takes refuge in a remote farmhouse in Snowdonia. She is suffering from an unnamed illness, presumably terminal cancer. Into her solitary existence comes Bradwen, a young man who is also rather lost. The book is full of symbolism, from the geese which keep mysteriously disappearing, to the poetry of Emily Dickinson, the garden, and Snowdon itself. It is also about translation, and living a translated existence. A poem by Emily Dickinson frames the story. If I knew more about her life and poetry perhaps I'd understand better what this book is about. I cannot be critical of a book which is so honest in its intentions, and which - though not eschewing the trivial - uses it to explore the fundamental issues of life.
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