Jun 17, 2010

THE TWIN by Gerbrand Bakker

translated from the Dutch by David Colmer
Winner of the IMPAC/Dublin Award
An NPR Best Foreign Fiction Pick
A School Library Journal Best Adult Book for High School Students

When his twin brother dies in a car accident, Helmer is obliged to return from university life to take over his brother’s role on the small family farm, resigning himself to spending the rest of his days with his head under a cow. The novel begins thirty years later with Helmer moving his invalid father upstairs to have him out of the way as he sparsely redecorates the downstairs, finally making it his own. The Riet, the woman who had once been engaged to marry Helmer’s twin, appears and asks whether her troubled eighteen-year-old son could come to live on the farm. Ostensibly a novel about the countryside, The Twin is ultimately about the possibility or impossibility of taking life into one’s own hands. It chronicles a way of life that has resisted modernity, a world culturally apart yet laden with romantic longing.

The charm of Bakker’s book is how finely every element is balanced, how perfectly the story is paced. . . . Bakker shows a fine gift for laconic comedy. . . . The great pleasure of this novel is how it has just enough plot to allow us to relish its beautifully turned observations of birds and beasts, weather and water. —Tim Parks, The New York Review of Books

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