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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful detour
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...
Published 12 months ago by Ann Fairweather

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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Compelling but strange
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...
Published on 29 Feb 2012 by Ripple


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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Compelling but strange, 29 Feb 2012
By 
Ripple (uk) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Detour (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. Certainly it conveys isolation and inner turmoil and adds to the strange turns of events, but it's not one that draws the reader in.

At this point it is worth confessing that the amount that I know about reclusive, American, poet Emily Dickinson is contained in this sentence. I make that point because I rather suspect that there are a whole lot of clever references and influences about her that are being used here that I'm afraid, if they are there, went somewhat over my head. If you are au fait with her life and works, then I have a feeling that you might get a lot more enjoyment out of this novel. The themes of nature and death as well as the eccentricity of the poet herself are, I suspect, deeply referenced in Emilie's own views and situation.

There's no doubt that Bakker effectively evokes a desolate and creepy tone to the story and it does make you want to read on to discover what might have happened to Emilie and what will happen when her husband tracks her down. Imagine "Little Britain", without the humour, written by Stephen King with added geese and you won't be far off. Or maybe for those with longer memories, "Twin Peaks". Just don't expect a whole lot of answers here.

If you are a connoisseur of Emily Dickinson or just a fan of seriously strange stories, then this will be right up your street and is worth a gander (sorry, couldn't resist!). I'm afraid it did rather leave me with the thought "what on Earth was that all about?", although it did retain my interest throughout and it is strangely compelling.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful detour, 6 April 2013
By 
Ann Fairweather (England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Detour (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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes less is more, 14 May 2013
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This review is from: The Detour (Kindle Edition)
This simple but haunting story stays with you long after you have read the final page . Like his previous novel The Twin this story will not be for everyone. The writing is stark, the characters can appear cold and distant but , in my opinion the overall effect of reading both of these novels is one of beauty and honesty . This Dutch writer deserves world recognition and I am certainly looking forward to ,hopefully future novels from this great talent.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Intriguing and Unusual Read, 8 April 2012
By 
Susie B - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Detour (Hardcover)
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. Bakker's prose is simple and crisp; in brief, controlled sentences he describes a setting, a situation or an emotion with a marvellous clarity. 'The Detour' is an impressive second novel and one which intrigued me throughout its entire length (to appreciate the feeling of underlying disquiet, I would recommend reading this novel in one or two sittings if possible); however I will just add that this book, like Bakker's previous novel The Twin is not the book to read if you like your fiction light-hearted and uplifting - but if you want something intriguing and unusual, then this novel is one to choose.

4 Stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, but unsatisfying, 17 Jun 2013
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This review is from: The Detour (Paperback)
This is an odd book, in that I found it a compelling read and yet at the same time I was not particularly interested in the end in what the outcome was, only that I should reach that outcome. It is often difficult to judge the writing of an author who has been translated. Is it the author or translator being judged? Bakker writes in a flat way. He captures an air of mystery and sometimes menace, of loneliness and despair. Yet he failed, for me anyway, to develop any real interest in the characters or their predicament. I also at times found his sentences a little jarring and choice of paragraphs odd - but this settled down after a while.

I suspect this is one of those books that some people will love, but it did not work for me. If this is what Bakker's writing is like, I will not read another. On the other hand, it has something as I read it in two sittings so he pulled me in, even if I did not enjoy the process of being pulled in.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars another winner from this wonderful writer, 13 May 2013
By 
C. Vaughan - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Detour (Paperback)
Having loved Bakker's first novel, I had to get hold of this one too. It was not a disappointment. The novel starts off slow, but this slowness itself has a purpose, allowing the reader to feel some of the relief of later openings up. Another beautiful, off-beat and ambiguous study of human relationships: the conclusion is at once frustrating and revelatory...
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting and beautiful, 10 Sep 2012
This review is from: The Detour (Hardcover)
Gerbrand Bakker's novel "The Twin" was stark and haunting. I loved it and so I was very keen to get my hands on this new story. I am not at all disappointed although "The Detour" didn't grab me in quite the same way as the earlier work, possibly because I knew what to expect. In this new book there is once again a person living alone in a rural environment - a Dutch woman has rented an isolated house in North Wales. She left her home in Amsterdam, her job, her husband and her elderly parents without a single word and as the story starts she is getting used to a life in the Welsh countryside. We think she may have run away from her old life as details of her affair with one of her students have been exposed, but is there more to it than that? She eats little, smokes a lot and frequently takes painkillers. A young man passes the house. He needs a place to stay for the night, but ends up staying much longer. Meanwhile her husband is looking for her, discovers where she is and sets off to find her.

Once again Mr Bakker uses the landscape, the wildlife and the minute details of the everyday life of people living close to the land as major features in his writing. There are badgers nearby, geese, sheep and cattle in the fields around the house, a red kite, a stream, the mountain and then there is the garden that she tries to create even though she knows she will not be there to see the fruits of her labours. There is a lot of pain in this beautifully written tale, but it is a definitely a five star read.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 'An empty car by the side of the road, bare trees, hills, cold.', 20 May 2012
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This review is from: The Detour (Hardcover)
That image sums up the atmosphere of Gerbrand Bakker's second novel, set mostly in rural Wales during the weeks preceeding Christmas.

A Dutch female academic (a translator of Emily Dickinson's poetry and a Dickinson-obsessive) has run away from a 'situation' at home involving a young male student and has driven through England before stopping at a tiny Welsh village where she rents a cottage.

She smokes a lot of cigarettes, drinks a lot of wine, gets mysteriously bitten by a badger and watches the geese in the field outside the cottage gradually disappear. She is also seriously ill.

The novel intercuts between her time at the cottage, episodes from her past and the eventual search that is begun by her husband (who is accompanied, in what is somehow a quintessentially Dutch flourish, by a gay policeman).

History begins to repeat itself as the woman, Agnes, (though she calls herself Emilie) becomes involved with another student, Bradwen, who joins her in the cottage and helps her build a shelter for the geese (which the geese shun).

The prose is stripped back, the tone off-kilter, thoughtful, opaque. There are occasional moments of deadpan comedy. The novel's themes are Dickinson's - Time, Love, Life, Nature. The book's mid-section meanders and gets fairly dull. Certain aspects are too obvious (the idiosyncratic villagers, the unwanted attentions of the local farmer, the ending) and others not obvious enough. The role of Dickinson and her poetry is quite clunky and adds an unappealing 'literary' quality, and other unnecessary elements produce a lumpiness to a novel of only 230 pages. It's as if the author didn't quite know how to sort his material and simply threw it all in. But he successfully conjures up a restrained atmosphere of bleak and baleful seclusion that is very welcome amidst the torrent of over-active, contrived gabble that characterises far too many novels.
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5.0 out of 5 stars book, 25 Jan 2014
By 
Ms. S. J. Rolph (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Detour (Paperback)
I was pleased with all aspects of this purchase: the product arrived promptly and was in excellent condition and met my expectations.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Title confusion, 1 Jan 2014
This review is from: The Detour (Paperback)
Love this writer and sat down to read Ten White Geese thinking it was a new book only to discover it is the same as The Detour under a different title.
Come on Amazon that fact should be made clear, very clear.
Enjoyed it all again anyway but that's not the point I'm making.
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The Detour
The Detour by Gerbrand Bakker (Paperback - 7 Mar 2013)
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