Roxy

Roxy

Esther Gerritsen seems to specialise in writing about calamitous female characters. Her 2012 prize-winning novel, Dorst (published in English translation as Craving) featured Coco, a young woman embarking on a journey of self-destruction after learning that her mother is dying. In Roxy, the main character of the same name, quickly unravels upon learning that her husband and his young intern have been found naked and dead in his car. Her disintegration is disturbingly ugly - drawing an analogy between the reader and Roxy, who describes herself as the type of person who 'always want to look when there’s an accident on the motorway.'   Who is Roxy? Roxy, the only child of a working class parents, spends her childhood in a small town in North Brabant. Her father is a long-distance truck driver who revels in telling his jokes to strangers. Her mother routinely enjoys her wine to excess. After writing a book, loosely autobiographical, Roxy attracts some fame and quickly meets Arthur, a television producer 30 years her senior. Arthur whisks Roxy away from her parents, to a new life of comfort, celebrity and money. The novel opens with 27-year-old Roxy being told by police that her husband has died in a car accident. She takes the information and goes back to bed, deciding that by not telling Louise, her three-year-old daughter, or notifying family and friends, she can delay making the news a reality at least until the morning. This proves to be her modus operandi – delaying or refusing to confront her own pain by indulging in behaviour that distracts her from facing her true emotions. Her conduct picks up speed and intensity as the novel progresses, starting with Roxy having sex with the undertaker and ending with her flipping sheep on their backs (a dubious belief by some that this can kill a sheep). But the Dutch seem so mild-mannered…. Attempting to support Roxy as she faces the first days and week following her husband’s death are Jane (Arthur’s personal assistant), Liza (Louise’s babysitter), Marco (Roxy’s only friend) and Roxy’s parents who take up this opportunistic chance to enjoy the comfort and involuntary hospitality available in Roxy’s marital home. While all characters try to help Roxy, their help is compromised by their own psychological limitations and the irrational demands that Roxy makes on them. Escaping on an impromptu road-trip with Jane, Liza and Louise is far from a therapeutic experience for Roxy and her passengers. With each day, Roxy isolates herself further from her companions by her recklessness and inability to relate to the women as anything but paid help. In the final pages she calls her father to come and collect her in France, yet when he arrives she quickly refuses his help to continue on her own path of ruination. An uncomfortable yet captivating tale. Gerritsen has written a compelling novel. While difficult to maintain empathy for Roxy, or, indeed, any of the characters, there is a strong impetus to discover what happens next and a hope for a positive conclusion that urges the reader to keep going. The dialogue is sharp and the character interactions credible. Roxy was originally published in 2014. This novel, written in Dutch, has been translated into English by Michele Hutchison and was published by World Editions in 2016. Roxy is the third book by Gerritsen to be nominated for the prestigious Libris Literature prize. Selected as author of the 2016 Boekenweekgeschenk (Dutch Book Week gift book), Gerritsen’s latest novel Broer is now available.  More >



I love Noord

I love Noord

North Amsterdam is described as the Brooklyn of the Dutch capital. If you want to know why, read this blog. More >




Amsterdamming

Amsterdamming

Three years in Amsterdam and counting! Daily journeys through the streets of this cosy and beautiful city. More >



European Mama

European Mama

A blog by a Polish mother living in the Netherlands with her German husband and two daughters. More >


Invading Holland

Invading Holland

The adventures of an accident-prone English man who arrived in the Netherlands in 2001 for a six month stay. More >




Kristen in Clogland

Kristen in Clogland

'Kristen in Clogland' is a blog about an Aussie discovering the Netherlands and adjusting to life in another country More >


Amsterdamian

Amsterdamian

I try to create a relationship with this mysterious city. I love it and can’t get enough of it. More >


A Wanderlust For Life

A Wanderlust For Life

An American expat blogging about life in Amsterdam while traveling around the country and throughout Europe. More >


Bicycle Mania

The title and cover picture promise an eccentric and lighthearted peek into the Dutch love affair with all things on two wheels. What you get is a chunky little picture book with some nice photos and a few pages of bicycle facts and trivia. If you've ever wanted to know how many bicycles there are in Holland (approximately 18 million), or that there are 29,000 kilometers of cycle paths throughout the country, then this might titillate. And if you're curious to know the reasons why cycling is predominant in the Netherlands (all seven of them), you're likely to enjoy thumbing through this. But beyond the stats (and there are oodles of boring ones) and comparisons between cycling policies both here and abroad, there's not much to hold the reader's attention unless you're a hard-core cycling fanatic, and even then it might be a little too pedestrian. It is however good to look at and I sometimes found myself wondering what pretty part of Holland I was looking at, and wishing the author had referenced the photos with their locations. It's the kind of book you might take off someone else's bookshelf to flick through and it certainly has charm, but probably not to a native, or a long-term expat who sees it all for real on a daily basis. Nevertheless, if you fancy a quaint addition to your novelty reading collection then this has appeal. Buy this book Shelley Antscherl books@dutchnews.nl  More >


Amsterdam Slavery Heritage Guide

The Amsterdam Slavery Heritage Guide is a walking guide to Amsterdam that focuses on the history of slavery in the city. The guide, published in 2014, is part of the VU University 'Mapping Slavery Project' which also covers Utrecht and Haarlem. As it notes in the forward, little is taught in Dutch schools and known generally about the history of slavery and the slave trade in the Netherlands. The book opens with an overview of the history of slavery in the Netherlands, as well as the Dutch overseas holdings. It focuses on four overall themes: Trade and profit, black in the city, resistance and abolitionism, and museums and archives. The book starts with a fold out map, showing 115 different locations that it discusses in further detail in the rest of the book. Though it doesn’t highlight a specific walking route, most of the locations are in the city centre and it's fairly easy to create your own route. It’s a small book and easy to carry during your walking tour. Each number on the map gets a page or two, with images, to describe the location and its history. Popular Amsterdam locations are featured, from the palace on the Dam to the Nieuwe Kerk. But obscure locations are also included, like the two busts of Moors on a building on the Herengracht. Even without walking a route, the book is filled with lots of interesting tidbits about history. For example, the official residence of the city's mayor was once home to slave trader Paulus Godin. The entire book is published in both Dutch and English. This is useful, but occasionally it creates a confusing layout which makes it hard to find the texts in the language of your choice. The book also uses a number of photos which are without captions and thus leave the reader wondering who the people are and what they were doing to warrant inclusion. Overall, however, the book is immensely informative and easy to use. Buy this book  More >


Old Heart

Old Heart is a novel about Tom Johnson, an 85-year old American widower who embarks on a mission to find Sarah van Praag, the Dutch woman he fell in love with during WWII. Tom’s journey takes him back to Veldhoven, a small town close to Eindhoven in the southern province of North Brabant, where he had been stationed during the war. In doing so, he eludes his adult children, Brooks and Christine, who have their own motives for wanting to see their father relocated in a local retirement village. His relationships with all family members are beautifully detailed throughout the novel. Old Heart is about love, loss, aging, relationships and self-discovery. It is a story of Dutch people and culture, from an American perspective.  Ferry’s portrayal of Veldhoven and its inhabitants rings true, a consequence of him having lived in the town as a Fulbright exchange teacher in 1991-2. As a novelist the author displays remarkable talent in transposing the story through timeframes, continents and narrators. Ferry refuses to take the easy path by jumping to fairy tale conclusions. Every character is complex and their negative attributes are clearly displayed. This full exposure gives the characters substance and the plot credibility. At no time is the reader presented with a stereotypical ‘sweet old person’ character – often found in books and films, but never found in real life. Old Heart requires the reader to question the idea that making decisions and taking chances is something older people are incapable of doing. Setting the tale in the Netherlands, both in the present day and during WWII, offers a Dutch cultural and historical perspective, which is softly differentiated from that apparent in North America. Old Heart is a thought-provoking and entertaining novel. Highly recommended. Ana McGinley  More >


Charlotte Brontë’s Secret Love

Dutch author, Jolien Janzing, is an expert in nineteenth century English literature, a fascination traceable to a time in her childhood when she first read English classics Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights by the Brontë sisters, Charlotte and Emily. And while it may seem an odd preoccupation for a woman who has lived most of her life in Belgium, Janzing’s erudition provides the foundation to her compelling literary work Charlotte Brontë’s Secret Love, recently published in English translation . Originally published as Meester in 2013, Charlotte Brontë’s Secret Love concentrates on the period (1840s) when Charlotte and Emily Brontë lived and worked at Pensionnat Heger, a boarding school for young ladies in Brussels. Charlotte falls in love with Constantin Heger, the husband of the school’s owner. This wretched experience of unrequited love is a crucial thread to the tale and later becomes the foundation for the character of Jane Eyre in Charlotte Brontë’s renowned novel of the same name. Factual fiction This book is constructed from available information about the Brontë sisters and is further embellished into an enjoyable narrative by adding fictional touches to fill gaps. Most of the characters and places are recognizable from historical texts. For example the letters between Charlotte and Constantin are written in a similar tone and style to the original letters yet are not the actual letters. Similarly, the supplementary storyline of King Leopold embarking on an extramarital affair with Brussels teenager, Arcadia Claret, incorporates a generous mix of fact and fiction. That ole devil called love Charlotte’s internal struggles are the source of tension apparent throughout the novel. Her struggle begins with the decision to follow her desire to escape from the confines and expectations of being the pastor’s daughter in impoverished Yorkshire - to study abroad in the cosmopolitan city of Brussels. Upon her arrival at the boarding school, her religion, clothes, language and sister are all constant reminders that she does not belong in this new world and that her survival depends on the strength of her own character. For Charlotte, being in love is the driving force that powers her through days of adversity. Many readers will find it difficult to identify what masculine wiles Constantin uses to seduce the young Charlotte. Yet her compulsive need to be acknowledged by him, even with full awareness that the situation is not conducive to a relationship, is familiar to many love stories. Setting scenes Janzings’ descriptions of culture, class and religion adeptly transport the reader between Brussels to the Yorkshire moors in the 1840s. The contrast between the teahouses and dressmaking businesses visited by Arcadia and her mother – and the Belgian wharves with men that smell to Charlotte of 'a strong odour of fish, sweat and cabbage soup' something she finds 'not totally repulsive' (pg45) are comprehensive yet seamlessly written. Jolien Janzing has been writing since she was a teenager. She continues to live in Belgium and works as a journalist and novelist. Charlotte Brontë’s Secret Love is her second novel. Beautifully translated into English by Paul Vincent, the novel has also been translated into German, French and Turkish. The book was selected for Books at the Berlinale, and film rights to the book have been sold to David P. Kelly Films. Buy this book Ana McGinley  More >


A Dictionary of Dutchness

The Dutch language can puzzle at the best of times but throw in an acronym or abbreviation and you're suddenly faced with a riddle, wrapped in a mystery and deep-fried in breadcrumbs. What hope have we uninitiated English speakers got if we can't tell the difference between a BOB and a TSB? Enter A Dictionary of Dutchness. All those quirky Dutchisms that have caught us off guard, drawn blank faces and LOL'd (laughed at loud) at our expense, have been meticulously rounded up by the editors at DutchNews.nl and compiled into a indispensable 400-word paperback that's as entertaining as it is digestible. The Dutch language demystified, brilliant. It's not just newcomers to the Netherlands who'll find a friend in this unofficial survival guide. What Dutch person wouldn't care to know what the FNV (trade union federation) stood for or if the CBP is doing what they're paid to do (protect data)? Some acronyms make perfect sense. Why struggle through Eerste Hulp Bij OngelukkenŽ and risk passing out - when EHBO (first-aid kit) just trips off the tongue? Then there's BOB. Poor BOB. He's that reliable friend who sticks to one beer so he can drive everyone home after a night out. And BTW, wouldn't it be nice to know how big your Hollandse Nieuwe were this year? (That's the mid-May catch of young herring). That just leaves us with GVB, a word that suffers from a split personality, standing for both a golf proficiency certificate and the municipal transport authorities. The list goes on and on, but you'll easily find yourself going along with it. I certainly did! A Dictionary of Dutchness is a great addition to anybody's bookshelf. Short and sweet, IYKWIM (if you know what I mean). Out of print Iamsterdam.com  More >


How to Survive Holland

Published in 2007, Martijn de Rooi's How to Survive Holland aims to explain Dutch culture to readers unfamiliar with the Netherlands , including the history and population. The book is written from the perspective of a highly educated man who clearly loves his homeland, and hopes to educate the reader - identified as working on such misconceptions as the need to request a life buoy on arrival in the Netherlands as a safety measure against the rising waters. How to Survive Holland is a 175 page paperback expanded over twelve chapters covering topics like history, geography, food, and culture. The insight into the Dutch culture is valuable for the uninitiated and includes explanations beneficial to people wanting to emerge themselves into local society. Of note is the explanation of the Dutch liberal attitude of - equality for all, and tolerance of most things - as presented in chapter 4 'Abnormally Normal'. Criticisms of this book are based on the writing style. Many times thirty words are used when five would suffice. The result is that the reader is distracted by the style and intake of information is reduced. Being proud of one's own homeland can also reduce objectivity. Comparing the Vaals hill in the province of Limburg to Mount Everest, or the former Amsterdam City Hall building to the Taj Mahal or Roman Colosseum (pg72-73) may sound a little silly - and that is not the writer's intention. Finally, and of no fault to the author, in the six years since its publication, some information is outdated and now incorrect: like strippenkaart use on public transport, and Dutch places on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Buy this book  More >


Passage of the Stork

Born in the United States, Madeleine Lenagh’s early childhood years were that of an expat child living in Europe. At the age of five, Madeleine and her family returned home and settled in Connecticut, where Madeleine faced tumultuous time as she matured towards adulthood. Rebelling against her mother’s interference in her love life, Madeleine set out to travel Europe alone. By the time she arrived in the Netherlands in 1970 her savings had dried up and she needed to make a decision that would have long-term implications for her future. Madeleine accepted a job as an au pair for a Dutch family and cashed in her return airline ticket to buy winter clothes. So began her life in the land of cheese and tulips that has endured over four decades. Passage of the Stork is Madeleine’s story. Her memoir is an honest account of a woman who has faced personal struggles with strength and determination in an adopted homeland. Always seeking the truth, especially about her self, she faces struggles familiar to many expat women as they tackle relationships, parenthood and careers in the Netherlands. Many women who have been lured by love to the Netherlands will relate to the experiences detailed in the book. For others it will be inspiring to read about Madeleine’s career development, the opportunities and her resultant independence made possible because she fully immersed herself in causes and projects that she believed in. As a book, Passage of the Stork is a narrative sewn together with a thread of Nordic mythology providing a commentary of events, much like that of a Greek chorus in a classical drama. My initial doubts about including mermaids in a personal memoir subsided quickly as it became apparent that they provided parallel explanations of significant developments, especially on a psychological level. The book is about the process of unraveling your past to discovering your true self. For Madeleine this meant a long battle to uncover the secrets hidden in her family. These secrets held the key to explaining who she was as an adult and the reasons for the choices she made throughout her life. From this point, she gained self-acceptance, wrote her memoir, and is now moving on to a new chapter of her life. Ana McGinley  More >


NLXL – possibly the biggest book about the Netherlands you have ever seen

The Netherlands might like to consider itself a small country - a kleine kikkerlandje, as the Dutch are so fond of saying - but this is one mighty big book. Karel Tomei's NLXL weighs in at a whopping 3.5 kilos but is such a joy to look at that you will forget the weight on your knees. The book draws on the tradition of birds eye view paintings in which the world is captured from the skies: the intricate patterns of reclaimed land crisscrossed by ditches, the contrast between bulb fields and a golf course, great swathes of sand with a city in the distance, a drone's view of a busy cafe terrace, the intricate carvings on the roof of a cathedral. But it's the landscape that really rules NLXL - the Netherlands might be oh so very flat, but it still has amazing variation in its countryside - from the seaside dunes to the southern heaths, from the the seals sunning themselves on a sandbank to intricate cityscapes. NLXL will make a stunning, if heavy, present for anyone who loves the Netherlands in all its variations. You can buy NLXL at all good bookshops and online from Xpat Media   More >


At Home in Holland

A practical guide for all new arrivals, At Home in Holland has been published since 1963 by the American Women's Club of The Hague, a non-profit organization and registered Dutch charity. website  More >


Dutch for Dummies

Joining the growing number of Dutch language books is the 2nd Edition of Dutch for Dummies by Margreet Kwakernaak. Adhering to the Dummies format, this four-part book with supplementary cd is both a Dutch language and culture guide. Part One covers the basics including 'de' or 'het', spelling rules, numbers, adjectives, propositions, past/present/perfect tense, and basic sentence construction. Language skill training is enhanced by snippets of cultural wisdom like - knowing what time you should visit your neighbors for coffee, and how many cups you will be expected to drink (p72), or how to talk about the weather (p74). The second part introduces language tools frequently utilized in activities of daily living with example conversations from the book available on the CD for listening and pronunciation practice. In addition to increasing the reader's vocabulary, these sample discussions are opportunities to teach further grammatical skills. Part Three continues to build on the previous section by extending the scenarios to those the reader may encounter when leaving their local area. Topics such as - arranging a car rental, hotel reservations, or dealing with emergency situations are included. Finally, Part Four comprises three chapters of information and advice on fitting into Dutch society as a non-Dutch person. Some of the tips on cultural wisdom, especially those in Ch16 seem outdated, and should perhaps be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. Criticism includes complaints from some readers that the pronunciation on the CD is German rather than Dutch, and that the occasional spelling error is distracting. Overall the new Dutch for Dummies package offers a useful introduction to both the Dutch language and culture. Adopting the phrases found in specific situations presented in the book should provide the reader with confidence to continue in their efforts to master this challenging language. Buy this book  More >