The Detour by Gerbrand Bakker

Ample make this bed.
Make this bed with awe;
In it wait till judgment break
Excellent and fair.

Be its mattress straight,
Be its pillow round;
Let no sunrise’ yellow noise
Interrupt this ground.

~Emily Dickinson

With this poem as its foundation, Gerbrand Bakker writes the most piercing novel I have read all year. It unfolds slowly slowly slowly before us as he teases out the reason why Emilie has come to Wales, to live in a thatched cottage once inhabited by old Mrs. Evans, and dwell there with the white geese who gradually are reduced to only four.

Halfway through the novel a boy with black curly hair, and a great dog named Sam, join her. The boy cooks for her, and fixes up the garden, and refuses to leave each time she asks him. He doesn’t inquire about the way her lucidity slips away from time to time, nor about the strips of pills from which she gradually presses more than one to ease her pain. He simply stays with her resolutely.

Far away in Amsterdam, Emilie’s husband decides to look for her. He meets with her parents, he hires a detective, and eventually he sends a card which simply says her name, and his, with the words “I’m coming” in between.

I chose to read this book because it was short listed for the IFFP; I feel no need to read any of the other contenders. It is so completely satisfying, so beautifully told, so multi-layered and rich in meaning that I am hoping already it is declared the winner.

Find more thoughts here and here and here.

(Found out on May 20, 2013 that The Detour did in fact win the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.)

17 thoughts on “The Detour by Gerbrand Bakker”

  1. It's more difficult for me to write a review of a book which especially moves me than for one toward which I have little feeling. I was afraid of giving too much away, for then I would spoil the sense of discovery Bakker prepares for the reader. Yet I am very glad I've enticed you to read it for yourself.


  2. Happy Sunday Meredith, I found Gerbrand Bakker's novel under the title ” TEN WHITE GEESE ” at amazon, I guess the title was changed.

    I certainly want to read this book, it seems to be along my taste.

    I am straightening my blog, adding all the books I read in 2013, it will take a few days. I will not review these books, still I will add a synopsis and what I liked/disliked about them. I will begin to review with the book I am presently reading.

    Good to be back :))


  3. I was thinking why this book sounds similar to another one I have on my shelf before I read the above comment. It is being released as Ten White Geese (Geez – I don't know how different titles can ever be good for a book's publicity). I am excited that you liked this one – I will be reading it shortly.


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