Julia Paperback – 3 Jan 2013
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''A sequence of memories beautifully linked together by the images drifting through the mind of a man waiting to die' Guardian. (Guardian)
'De Kat's ambition of theme is served by astonishing tautness of construction and spareness of language' Independent. (Independent)
'Emotionally shattering, it is also distinguished by logical intricacy of art and precision of detail' Paul Binding, T.L.S. Books of the Year. (Paul Binding)
'A monumental little book' Roger Cox, Scotsman. (Scotsman)
About the Author
Otto de Kat is the pen name of a Dutch publisher. His prize-winning previous work is published in Holland, Germany and France.
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Top customer reviews
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.
Their ultimate destinies leave Dudok with a 'perennially supressed, deeply buried sense of yearning.'...
I found this rather a forgettable novel, despite the subject matter.
I have recommended this book to a number of friends and am so enthusiastic about it that I wanted to do the same to Amazon readers. I am amazed that this is the first review of Julia that has been posted here but feel quite privileged to be the one to do it.
This is such an engaging little book, right from the first chapter, that it's hard to put down. Dudok's story is the everyman story, that poses questions about what to do in extraordinary times and that weighs the cost of regret. It is a book about love, but also about responsibility, courage and cowardice, fate and fatalism. It's a brilliant little read, one that I can't recommend enough and I for one will be looking up de Kat's other work.
It’s a shame then that from the second chapter onwards and for almost the rest of the book, we are given instead the story of Chris, the dead boss, and the events both in the war and leading up to his death. I’m sorry to say that Chris was a very irritating character and one of the most indecisive and weak literary men I’ve ever had the displeasure of meeting. This may be in part due to the fact that a large portion of his story is told to us rather than being shown to us, so I felt very disengaged indeed from what is happening to him. How I longed to return to that first chapter.
I also didn’t believe in Chris’s deep and abiding love for Julia, the woman he loses in the war. Indeed, Julia, like Chris, also tells us a great deal of things and becomes very quickly wearisome as a character. Really, the two of them deserved each other, but were of little interest to me as a reader. That said, the prose is very nice, but this factor is nowhere near enough to make a book sing. And Chris takes far too long in getting (at last!) to the moment of death, alas …
So it was with great relief that the final chapter brings us back to that wonderful chauffeur once more, and the ending is very powerful indeed. Van Dijk very much deserves his own book and is wasted in this one.
3 stars: a missed opportunity for a great character who is forced to remain on the sidelines