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The Light of Amsterdam [Hardcover]

David Park
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 April 2012
It is December in Belfast, Christmas is approaching and three sets of people are about to make their way to Amsterdam.

Alan, a university art teacher stands watching the grey sky blacken waiting for George Best's funeral cortege to pass. He will go to Amsterdam to see Bob Dylan in concert but also in the aftermath of his divorce, in the hope that the city which once welcomed him as a young man and seemed to promise a better future, will reignite those sustaining memories. He doesn't yet know that his troubled teenage son Jack will accompany his pilgrimage.

Karen is a single mother struggling to make ends meet by working in a care home and cleaning city centre offices. She is determined to give her daughter the best wedding that she can. But as she boards the plane with her daughter's hen party she will soon be shocked into questioning where her life of sacrifices has brought her.

Meanwhile middle-aged couple, Marion and Richard are taking a break from running their garden centre to celebrate Marion's birthday. In Amsterdam, Marion's anxieties and insecurities about age, desire and motherhood come to the surface and lead her to make a decision that threatens to change the course of her marriage.

As these people brush against each other in the squares, museums and parks of Amsterdam, their lives are transfigured as they encounter the complexities of love in a city that challenges what has gone before. Tender and humane, and elevating the ordinary to something timeless and important, The Light of Amsterdam is a novel of compassion and rare dignity.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (1 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408821362
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408821367
  • Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 22.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 277,344 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


The Light of Amsterdam looks destined to become an international literary bestseller with immense human appeal. Echoes of the great Brian Moore are evident as is a sensibility similar to that of the US master Richard Ford, but Park is more than merely a fine writer with a great deal to say - as if that were not sufficient. He is an astute storyteller whose vision is sustained by instinct, intelligent observation and a sense of responsibility. There is also a determination to perfect his art. He was never going to settle for being very good; he wanted much more and has certainly achieved it (Eileen Battersby Irish Times)

A stealthily affecting novel, this could well give more famous names a run for their Booker money (GQ)

One of the shrewdest observers of the way we live now (Independent)

As Park's cast arrives in Amsterdam ... the momentum of the trip and Park's tumbling, lyrical prose keep you turning the pages (Daily Mail)

Like Jane Austen and EM Forster, Park sets his characters a moral examination ... Park never forgets that he is telling a story - or rather, several stories - but his method is dramatic ... The Light of Amsterdam is a very good novel indeed (Allan Massie Scotsman)

Book Description

The extraordinary new novel from David Park

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best Park yet! 5 May 2012
This beautifully written and compelling novel follows Alan, unwilling weekend guardian of his teenage monosyllabic son; Karen reluctant hen dragged to her daughter's hen night; and Marion, on a weekend break with her husband whose needs she no longer believes she can meet. Set against the background of a weekend trip to Amsterdam their stories skilfully unfurl to show that their loved ones are not completely who they imagined them to be. As two of the stories intersect you turn the page not knowing where you want the story to go or to end. David Park has been Northern Ireland's best novelist for the last twenty years and produced most of the meaningful fiction written about the troubles. In this novel, however, he has left that subject matter behind and the characters are dealing with a more universal issue - how to love someone who may not love you in return. Accessible and incredibly moving this is the best David Park yet (and that is saying something). So far, it is the novel of the year
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
By Amy033
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Another beautiful book from David Park.
Each of the three main characters in this story is heading to Amsterdam; each with different hopes, fears and expectations of what the trip will bring them. Each will be surprised.
This book is primarily about love - its mark left on every page. Marion is going with her husband and plans to provide him with what she thinks he wants and needs to bring him happiness. Divorcee Alan is unexpectedly accompanied by his troubled teenage son and is (as well as firing enthusiasm within his own life) hoping to find a connection with him which will bring them back to a time when awkwardness and lack of understanding did not stand between them; when the love he had for his son was simple and unquestionably reciprocated. Karen is travelling with her daughter on her hen party, uncomfortable and not really wanting to go, but determined to be there for her. Karen has made it her life's work to make life good for her daughter and to protect her from harm.
The events which transpire for each character during their time in Amsterdam are often, on the surface, fairly mundane. But Park bathes the characters' thoughts, desires and actions in a light of value and importance which brings to the reader a sense of viewing ordinary life through special glass which has the ability to enlighten, enrich and bring a depth of meaning to the same. Each character will be lifted from their well-trodden path in life and placed on a new one because of their time in Amsterdam.
For me, the characters' stories illustrate beautifully the fact that some situations in life, which seem to be obviously controllable, can not be controlled, manipulated or worked out - there is always an unknown quantity.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Subtle and sensitive novel 5 May 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I had never heard of this guy, I was just looking for books on Amsterdam. Most reviewers and profiles cast Park as a 'regional' novelist, maybe simply because there aren't that many world-class novelists from Northern Ireland. It's also true that he has a great talent for portraying middle-aged provincial life with empathy. But I thought this was a genuinely great book that transcends its regional setting and tells us a lot about human beings' hopes and fears and projections. It reminded me, funnily, of the great women novelists of the nineteenth century - Maria Edgeworth, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell. Someone should make a film version.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amsterdam fan says Park is no flash in the pan. 18 Jun 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
I read the Light of Amsterdam during a holiday in Italy. I found this the most enjoyable of Park's novels to date. It still had the beautifully descriptive language that I have come to expect in David Park's books, and I could easily identify the various places he depicts in Amsterdam,(I was particularly delighted to discover again the 'Alms houses' oasis which we came across by accident ona visit to Amsterdam) but is is Park's canny handling of the diverse characters in this novel which made it a compelling read for me. Anyway who has brought up a teenage son can empathise with the father/son relationship he portrays, and it was easy to warm to the two very different as they endeavoured to come to terms with the changes which life was presenting them with. This novel would make a wonderful short film.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Light of Amsterdam - Simply Superb! 14 May 2012
From the opening paragraph of this novel it is clear that you are in the hands of a very skilful and sensitive writer.

The characters are drawn quietly yet powerfully and as a reader you are left wondering throughout the novel if they will manage to find and hold 'the light' in Amsterdam. Indeed, their physical and emotional journey to Amsterdam becomes your journey also. This is typical of the strong character development which can be seen in Park's other works such as 'Swallowing the Sun' and 'The Truth Commissioner'. The characters seem to penetrate deeply into the mind and remain there long after you have finished the novel.

In 'The Light of Amsterdam' Karen and Alan carry much of the narrative but the novel is really about love in all its myriad forms. As is Park's trait, you are eased into the microcosm of each character's lives and are subsumed by their failures and achievements in equal measure. As a reader, you feel you know the characters intimately and you will them to find a resolution to their predicaments and hope that each moves forward through their difficulties to a better place.

This is where Park's power as a teller of stories lies and 'The Light of Amsterdam' does not disappoint.

'The Light of Amsterdam', Park's seventh novel, is another accolade in what is now a substantial body of work which places him firmly alongside the great Irish writers of this time.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars The light of Amsterdam
Having been born in the 1960's county Londonderry / Derry and then visiting Amsterdam for my 40th birthday /wedding anniversary, I was intrigued to follow the Belfast folk in this... Read more
Published 14 days ago by moran lamont
2.0 out of 5 stars Boring
I found this very disappointing. This book seems to drag on forever about a bunch of miserable, unlikeable characters, couldn't wait to get to the end.
Published 28 days ago by Katharine Norman
3.0 out of 5 stars A Woman's Book
"The Light of Amsterdam" is a mildly interesting book about "relationships" and family life in Belfast , transplanted to Amsterdam for a weekend in December just before Christmas. Read more
Published 1 month ago by L. Davidson
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Wonderfully written story about 3 people having a weekend break in Amsterdam - a womn on her daughter's hen party, a man going to see Bob Dylan in concert with this reluctant... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Dons83
5.0 out of 5 stars A Lesson in Love
Three intertwining stories of middle aged people off on a trip to Amsterdam. For one, a hardworking single mother, she comes to realise her daughter is selfish and vain and that... Read more
Published 2 months ago by K. Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Sensitive and engaging story.
As a regular visitor to Amsterdam I was initially drawn to the book by the title. The premise is interesting and the unfolding of the various family histories is credible and... Read more
Published 2 months ago by W. Scourfield
4.0 out of 5 stars Quite a good read
Kept my interest, but don't know whether I would want to read any other books by this author, content could have been a bit more interesting, some of the story got a bit lost in... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mrs. H. Walsh
4.0 out of 5 stars A really good read
David Park's writing is very intense and full of Northern Ireland humour. The characters live in Belfast and set out for a weekend in Amsterdam. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Kath Kelly
2.0 out of 5 stars Not good
What a disappointing ending. Felt cheated. The first paragraph kept repeating sentences. A lot of reading but no sensible conclusion.
Published 3 months ago by Karen Sutton
4.0 out of 5 stars Depressing characters in delightful setting
A weekend in Amsterdam will never be quite the same again! Park's characters are linked by place and the fact that they're all at a turning point in their lives. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Monty
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