This was an astoundingly beautiful novel and the more I think on and reflect about it, the more I probably should bump it up to five stars on Goodreads rather than just four, but as I think those are mostly arbitrary I doubt I will do it. The ending, although, beautiful, was just a bit lackluster to me. This some how marred the overall beauty of the novel, even though the only thing it really did wrong was not give me the satisfying ending that I wanted.
For once, I’m going to say something great about a Goodreads review. Shocking, I know. When I went to mark this book off my list and to see how others rated it after I gave my rating, I happened to check out the first few reviews and the first review nailed my thoughts on this book with his first sentence:
“The Detour (or Ten White Geese as it is published in the US) is an extremely difficult book to review; instead, it is one that the reader must experience directly, yielding to its ebbs and flows, its offerings and its closures.”
The rest of his short review is also fantastic, so you should go check it out here.
The main reason I thoroughly enjoyed this book is mentioned in his review and that is the setting. Bakker did an amazing job capturing what I consider the Welsh countryside to be like and, having not read much Dutch literature, has a very similar feel to the sparseness in dialogue, setting and action that I come to relate to Scandinavian films (I’m aware the Netherlands are not Scandinavian, but the similarity in this is there). If this book is ever adapted for film I really hope it is written or directed by a Scandinavian because of the beauty of those films and the role scenery and setting play in them.
Another piece I found intriguing was the inclusion of a gay character, but not making him a caricature or even a stereotype. He was a minor character, but his interactions with the husband and the almost-half-breath-hinted at gayness/bisexuality of the husband added a bit of romantic tension in a way I would not have expected to that minor plot line.
Recommendation: This is one of those few must reads, but it is not for everyone. You have to take your time with this short novel and you have to appreciate the slowness, the sparseness and the general quietude of the novel. If you want a fast paced, action novel with lots of talking stay FAR away from this one.
Opening Line: “Early one morning she saw the badgers.”
Closing Line: “In ten or twenty years, not much here will have changed. He doesn’t emerge from behind the old holly tree until the men have moved out of earshot. He starts whistling softly.” (Whited out.)