"The Detour" by Gerbrand Bakker

A Dutch lecturer has fled to rural Wales after having confessed to an affair with one of her students.  Her parents and husband are left in Amsterdam, wondering where she has disappeared to and her husband hires a detective to help him find her.  

In Wales, the woman tells others her name is Emilie but does not give much more information about herself.  She rents a farmhouse and spends her days fixing it up.  When she arrives, she notices there are ten geese living in her garden but one by one they begin to disappear, to what she assumes is a fox.  

One day a young man out walking his dog injures himself on her property.  Emilie invites him to stay the night, but he doesn't leave.  With her husband and the detective on their way to Wales, Emilie's old life and new one are poised to collide.  

The Detour by Gerbrand Bakker, is a novel originally published in Dutch and recently published in English.  It is a novel about isolation, turmoil, and retreat, a quiet book about the powerful nature of solitude.  I have heard great things about Bakker's first novel, the Impac award-winning The Twin, and though I haven't read it yet, I thought I would pick this one up as well.

This book is one that leaves you thinking about it long after you're done.  In the beginning, I found myself wondering just what it is about this book that kept me turning the page.  I didn't feel captivated and yet I needed to keep reading.  I admire Bakker's writing in how it brought the feelings of emptiness and solitude off of the page.  It quickly gets under the skin of the reader and haunts throughout the entire book.  It is very interesting when you consider how the grief and sadness of the book is a result of an affair she has committed, not of death or other major tragedy.  

There were some moments that brought a smile to my face such as the Doctor who smokes in his office and how everyone in the town asks if she is German (my heritage is Dutch and even I get asked a lot if I'm German.)  But for the rest of the book, you feel a rather morbid fascination.  It's one of those books that you feel strange saying "I loved it" just given the nature of it.

It's hard for me to put a finger on what is I liked about the book and what it is that is keeping me from raving about it.  However, there are many people who are raving about it, so it is one that I would recommend to other readers.


  1. I'm very curious about this book, probably more so than The Twins, a book I actually own (still need to read).

    That's 2 books for the Dutch challenge. Looking forward to seeing what you'll read next.

  2. I've read a few books that I loved, but felt awkward admitting to "loving" them because of their subject matter (a school shooting, for example). It sounds like this is a very thought-provoking, quiet read -- which definitely appeals to me!


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