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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Over the hill and into the trees
Exquisitely written, Dimitri Verhulst's short novel is a work of rare beauty that is relatively uncommon in modern literature - a brief novella, a concise and poetic meditation on life, specifically on the condition of reaching the end of one's life. The life in question is that of Madame Verona, a widow living alone in a small village after the death of her husband...
Published on 19 Oct 2009 by Keris Nine

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable and insightful tale
Not my usual type of read but the story was an intriguing tale of someone's life and loves. It did ramble a bit but came to a crisp conclusion.
Published 10 months ago by drbmd


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Over the hill and into the trees, 19 Oct 2009
By 
Keris Nine - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill (Paperback)
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Exquisitely written, Dimitri Verhulst's short novel is a work of rare beauty that is relatively uncommon in modern literature - a brief novella, a concise and poetic meditation on life, specifically on the condition of reaching the end of one's life. The life in question is that of Madame Verona, a widow living alone in a small village after the death of her husband Monsieur Potter. Although over the years her great beauty is desired by the men of the village, Madame Verona clings to the memory of her husband, keeping only the company of the stray dogs that are drawn to her - a simple but unusual attraction that she hopes will stand her in good favour in the next life.

Verhulst considers Madame Verona's condition at this delicate stage in her life principally through the setting - specifically in the little village of Oucwègne, a village build on three hills. It's to this remote little place of no more than forty people that once had a cow for a mayor that she, a piano teacher, had come to live with her husband, a renowned composer. Her husband now dead, her regular climb down the hill to the village comes to express something else - the realisation being that, in her old age, the day will come when she will not make it back up again. Adopting the tone of a fable, the novella considers the position of Madame Verona from a number of viewpoints - her own attempt to define her condition and also how she is viewed by the villagers of Oucwègne, but also through flashbacks that contrast the married woman with the widow, the younger woman with the older, and of course through the village itself which is also slowly dying in its distance from the modern world.

As well as finding much that is evocative in the setting and in the woods that border her house, Verhulst makes wonderful use of language and poetic imagery, considering for example the use a tree can be put to - a living thing reduced to wood that can be made into a coffin, or even a cello - and that the space the felled tree leaves behind will be occupied by something or someone. "It's like that for trees, it's like that for people". Gorgeously written in this respect, the novella finds a way to express the nature of life, of change and of the inevitable progression of time, seeking to find meaning in it all, or at least something of beauty.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A small gem, 6 Nov 2009
By 
purplepadma (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill (Paperback)
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"Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill" is short - a novella, really - but beautifully written, polished and, in places, poetic. Set in a dwindling rural village, it tells the story of Madame Verona's life through her memories and those of the villagers who have observed her from the bottom of the hill. Having arrived in the village young, beautiful, and wedded to her composer husband, she captures the interest in the men of the village, who continue to yearn for her as she is forced to settle into widowhood. An exploration of love and loss which is slow-burning but ultimately charming.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Short and sweet, 26 Oct 2009
By 
P. McCauley - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill (Paperback)
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It's not often I'd say you should definitely read a book, especially something in translation, but you should definitely read this book. Quite simply it's just an enjoyable read, despite what you might think considering the subject matter. Madame Verona comes down the hill, and she will never be able to make it up again. From this unravels the story of how she came to live on the hill in the first place, her husband Monsieur Potter, their life together, the woods on their property, the nearby village, the people there, the history... When Potter decides to hang himself instead of letting cancer take him Verona continues to live on, never quite letting go of him; even going so far as to have an ugly, terrible-sounding cello made from the tree he hung himself from... And as she waits on the hill she knows it won't be long before she's with him once again.

This is a great example of what novellas strive to be, something short and beautiful.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable and insightful tale, 13 Feb 2014
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Not my usual type of read but the story was an intriguing tale of someone's life and loves. It did ramble a bit but came to a crisp conclusion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Touching and witty, 22 Jan 2013
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An easy read with a sort of witty amusing humour - not laugh out loud but similar humour to that in The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window. Not a huge amount happens in this book, as is to be expected when you know the vague outline of the story. However I found it a touching read with interesting insight into the end of a life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A charming little riff on getting old, widowhood and death, 30 Aug 2012
By 
Andrew Sutherland "Sutho" (Surrey outposts) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill (Paperback)
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You heard me right. But if that sounds grim, it shouldn't. Winter in rural Flanders: the eponymous widow, Madame Verona, old and heartbroken, goes down the hill in order to sit it out on a bench in the freezing night, Lawrence Oates-stylee, armed with a cello made from the wood of the tree from which her husband has hanged himself. What follows are her bitterswweet final memories. Verhulst has written a short, beautiful story of enduring love, shot through with with a series of strange anecdotes about village life that provide a comedy of manners to set against the doom of a very short, very good novella.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The joy of beautiful writing, 17 Nov 2014
How could you not fall in love with this? The man writes like an angel, quite heavenly.

I first read it in the original Dutch and loved the poetry of his language. I wasn't at all disappointed by the translation which stayed true to his craftmanship. Dimitri Verhulst could write about cornflake packets and it would still be beautiful. In this case, the story is also wonderful but it's the kind of book you can pluck from the bookshelf years later, read a few paragraphs of, and simply savour the writing.

Highly recommended.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Bitter-sweet and Belgian, 21 Mar 2010
By 
doublegone (scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill (Paperback)
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I was very taken by this concise little novella about a widow who has a cello made from the tree her husband hanged himself from.

It is one of those books that while imbued with sadness also seems to evoke the joy of life too. Certainly the joy of love and the sadness of love lost. The background of small-town intrigues is well handled, and populated by characterful villagers.

As a translation things don't always come across with complete elegance but the problems are minor, and certainly wouldn't stop me from recommending this book highly.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A short but poignant read, 17 Mar 2010
By 
Helen S - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill (Paperback)
This book is set in the tiny and remote village of Oucwegne, a place that is slowly dying due to the lack of girls being born in recent generations. Madame Verona and her musician husband Monsieur Potter live in an isolated house at the top of a steep hill overlooking the village, but as they get older it becomes more and more difficult to walk up and down the hill...

The problem I had with this book is that there's very little action, there's no suspense as we know what's going to happen right from the beginning, and there's almost no dialogue. However, this is more to do with my own personal reading preferences rather than a criticism of the book itself - it's not supposed to be a thriller after all. Most of the 145 pages are devoted to a string of humorous anecdotes describing life in an isolated village where only six people attend church, the men are obsessed with playing games of table football and a cow was once elected mayor. Most of the characters Verhulst describes are portrayed as eccentric and not particularly likeable. It's easy to see why Madame Verona was in no hurry to rejoin the community, preferring to stay on the hill with her memories of her husband. The final few chapters, though, were poignant and moving and will be understood by anyone who has lost someone they love.

Even in translation Dimitri Verhulst's writing is poetic and thought-provoking. If you can appreciate the beautiful writing for its own sake and are happy to read a book where nothing really happens, then you would probably enjoy Madame Verona. I would be prepared to try more of Verhulst's books because he does have a very nice style, but this one just didn't appeal to me.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A widow runs out of logs, 26 May 2014
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In a rural vertiginous French village of dwindling population, Madame Verona has run out of logs on a snowy winters day. She is alone in her house at the top of a steep hill. Gradually we learn more about her and the past, and also about the village and it's inhabitants. Poignant, surprising and sometimes funny, I found the book original and well written.
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Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill
Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill by Dimitri Verhulst (Paperback - 2 Nov 2009)
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