Book Review: Tomorrow Pamplona by Jan van Mersbergen

Tomorrow Pamplona by Jan van Mersbergen

This book has received so much blogging hype that I had to see for myself. Is it worth the hype? No, it’s just a nice book of which there are so many. It was a good read, in a way.

I think this book may be typically Dutch, or at least, we have many more books like this. Many of the younger generation of writers have a similar understated writing style. And the number of pages is in the range of many literary fiction books in the Netherlands, too.

Tomorrow Pamplona: What it is about

Boxer Danny is running away from his last fight. When he can get a lift from a man on his way to the Spanish town of Pamplona, he decides to come along with him. They travel all night to get to Pamplona the next day so they can join in the yearly bull run, where a number of bulls are let loose in the streets and brave people run ahead of them in a kind of death-defying exercise.

Danny isn’t very talkative but it is clear that something bad has happened recently. Robert, the driver of the car, attempts to find out whether it was a fight he lost, or something to do with a woman, maybe.

Danny doesn’t explain much but clearly has a lot of anger inside him. Will he be able to contain this anger, or take it out on Robert? And what happened anyway?

The book switches from the now to the recent past, so the reader gets more insight in what happened with Danny to make him so angry.

Tomorrow Pamplona: What I thought

The writing style was great. A very understated book, not a word too many. Generally short paragraphs and a lot of dialogue.

Still, if it wasn’t for that, I would have given the book 3 stars. My problem: I don’t care one bit about boxers. In fact, I prefer not to read about them and their (often shady) world. Furthermore, I don’t like men with an abundance of muscle or men that may explode into a rage for no obvious reason at all.

I don’t like the Pamplona bull stuff either. Bulls in Pamplona are scary, dangerous and even deadly animals. I wish everyone luck who thinks they should participate in an event like that, but I don’t need to know about it, or read about it.

So, there was very little for me in this book to like. But the story was well-set up and the reader slowly starts to understand what happened to Danny. That was well done, and if I had liked the locations and situations of the book better, it would have been a really good book for me. The only thing I could sort-of associate with in a positive way, was the drive to Spain – which I’ve done, albeit a different route.

Rating: 4/5

I got this book: from the library

I read this in: Dutch (Morgen zijn we in Pamplona), the original language

Number of pages: 192

First published: 2007

Genre: contemporary fiction, literary fiction

Book Review: Caesarion by Tommy Wieringa

Cesaerion by Tommy Wieringa

A few years ago I enjoyed reading Joe Speedboat by the Dutch writer Tommy Wieringa so when I saw that a new book had come out in 2009, I was keen to read it. Still, it took me until now to pick it up from the library.

Both Joe Speedboat and Caesarion are translated into English.

Caesarion: What it is about

The story starts with Ludwig Unger travelling back to England to attend the funeral of a former neighbour. In his younger years he lived in an English sea-side town with his mother. The house stood near a crumbling cliff and there was the danger that the house would disappear into the sea.

While in England, he decides to take a temporary job as pianist in a hotel to finance his stay, as he is planning to stay for a while. We find out that he has been travelling for years from hotel to hotel as a bar pianist.

Ludwig’s parents (father an Austrian artist living somewhere far away, his mother is Dutch) separated quite soon after Ludwig was born. He and his mother spent their years travelling around and staying in different countries for a few years at a time before moving on.

It soon becomes clear that Ludwig has a strong connection with his mother, even with her somewhat dark past. As an adult, he still follows her around, he still needs her, although later on the tables are turned.

Eventually he also goes to look for his father, whom he’s never met. But how badly does he still needs his parents, really?

Caesarion: What I thought

I loved the beginning of this story and I was thinking this was going to be as good as Joe Speedboat. It was well-written and about England, which I like. But then Ludwig follows his mother to the US and it all becomes a little less interesting.

The life that Ludwig leads becomes more insecure and I didn’t like that. I don’t necessarily need a positive story but the situation that Ludwig find himself in becomes rather pointless. I’d rather have a story where I expect things to end badly. In this story, I didn’t know what to think of it. It seemed Ludwig had reached an impasse in his life. Not really interesting to read about, I thought.

The relationships that Ludwig has with women weren’t always to pleasant to read about, either. Of course, that is related to how he relates to his mother, too.

Something I did enjoy a lot is that the readers slowly discovers that Ludwig isn’t all that different from his mother, even if he criticizes her often.

I liked the beginning much, much more than the final part. But the very end, the final page, was beautiful again. I enjoyed this book a little less than Joe Speeboat but will pick up other books by this writer in the future.

Rating: 4/5

I got this book: from the library

I read this in: Dutch, the original language. The English title is Caesarion.

Number of pages: 366 (Dutch edition)

First published: 2009, English edition June 2011

Genre: contemporary fiction

Een aanzienlijke vertraging van Anton Koolhaas (Dutch review)

Een aanzienlijke vertraging by Anton KoolhaasMy blog readers have been telling me several times how they don’t mind if I post a review in Dutch every now and then. They won’t be able to understand it (unless Google translate does a good job) but they won’t press the “unsubscribe” button either. We’ll see.

This book is from 1981 and I used to enjoy reading books by this writer. Somehow I forgot all about him but when I saw this book in a secondhand sale, I went for it straight away. However, since there is no English translation, I may as well write the review in Dutch, to the benefit of Dutch readers that are not keen on English.

Al jaren had ik niets meer gelezen van Koolhaas terwijl ik zijn boeken in het verleden met plezier las. Vanwege een tere huid en vooral De laatste goendroen vond ik prachtig. Toen ik Een aanzienlijke vertraging tweedehands tegenkwam, was er een onmiddelijke “O ja, Koolhaas!” en ik kocht het boek dan ook meteen.

Het verhaal gaat over Frederick Verhoeven, een weduwnaar in goeden doen, die jaren na het overlijden van zijn vrouw nog een laatste bief van haar in handen krijgt. Zij verwijt hem niets gedaan te hebben om de executie van Caspar, hun zoon, in de 2e wereldoorlog te voorkomen.

Door de NSB een grote som geld te betalen had hij de exectuie mogelijk kunnen voorkomen, hoewel Caspar dan naar een concentratiekamp gestuurd zou zijn en dat waarschijnlijk ook niet zou hebben overleeft. Frederik wil alsnog weten hoe anderen over hem denken en of zij ook vinden dat hij over de brug had moeten komen.

Na zijn eigen familie en die van zijn vrouw te hebben bezocht, komt hij op het spoor van een oude studievriendin, Jos, die op haar sterfbed blijkt te liggen. Hij ontdekt dat ook zij heeft nagelaten iets te doen voor haar zoon, wat hem mogelijk het leven heeft gekost. Hij is al jaren vermist. Om nu eindelijk een goed te doen belooft Frederik op zoek de gaan naar deze zoon.

Het boek gaat over schuldgevoelens, slechte huwelijken en hoe gedrag in het verleden het hele leven gevolg blijkt te hebben. Best een mooi boek. Het begin was wat langzaam. Frederik is geen leuke man dus dat maatke het mij als lezer moeilijk om te willen dat het goed ging met hem in het verhaal. Het interesseerde me niet zo hoe het met hem af zou lopen. Toch was het een leuk boek om te lezen.

Rating: 4/5

I got this book: in a second-hand book sale

I read this in: the original language, Dutch.

Voorbij Mels van Mireille van Hout (Review in Dutch)

Voorbij Mels by Mireille van Hout

This review is in Dutch. But don’t go yet, here is a funny tale: {whispers} Dutch people don’t like to comment on blog posts! Honestly. When I visit Dutch book blogs there’ll often be just one comment on a post. Mine. Sometimes one other brave soul has given their thoughts on the post. Sometimes. Most posts remain comment-free.

So, let’s see what happens here, with this post. I know of 3 Dutch bloggers that will comment, and that’ll be it. Don’t believe me? Wait and see. But just to be fair, I’ll invite comments at the end of the post, in Dutch.

Does it bother you, seeing a post in a language that you don’t know? Does it put you off my blog? Please let me know, I’m considering starting a separate blog in Dutch, but at the moment it’s hardly worthwhile.

Voorbij Mels (2008) is het debuut van Mireille van Hout. Het boek is lekker vlot geschreven en heeft voornamelijk plaats in Amsterdam.

We ontmoeten de hoofdpersoon Roos (30) echter als ze in Spanje is, samen met de broer van Mels, Ludo. Ze zijn op zoek naar Mels die sinds een week of zo vermist is. Ludo will Roos er eigenlijk niet bijhebben en stuurt haar weer naar huis.

De lezer leert daarna hoe Roos Mels leerde kennen en dat hij haar ex-vriend is. We lezen telkens een stuk over de verdere zoektocht, afgewisseld met stukken uit het recente verleden.

Haar vriendinnen vinden dat ze zich er teveel mee bemoeit, met die zoektocht. Mels is tenslotte niet langer haar vriend en heeft sindsdien al verschillende andere vriendinnen versleten. We ontdekken waarom zij zich schuldig voelt dat hij weg is.

De zoektocht gaat inmiddels door.

Wat ik vond:

Goed geschreven, mooi verhaal. Vlot geschreven, geloofwaardig. Maar ik stoorde me wel wat aan Roos’ obsessie met het vinden van Mels.

Het leest lekker weg, echt een aanrader voor een lekker (lang) weekend.

4.5/5 sterren

Ken je dit boek? Lijkt het je een leuk verhaal? Laat het weten in de comments. En weerleg mijn stelling dat Nederlanders niet durven te reageren op blogs!

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