Gerbrand Bakker - The Detour
The natural world occupies a prominent place in Gerbrand Bakker’s still relatively small oeuvre. As a farmer’s son and now a horticulturalist, he has a detailed knowledge of the subject. In his work, nature is no romantic backdrop but a challenge that can be overcome only through hard work.
In the novel that brought Bakker international renown, The Twin, the central character is fated to take over the running of the family farm under the critical gaze of his aging father. The main character in The Detour is Agnes, a married woman who until recently taught at a university in Amsterdam.
She has opted for an isolated and harsh existence in the Welsh countryside. The reader, piecing together her reasons for making that choice, is held in suspense all the way to the dramatic dénouement. But by then everything from which Agnes has fled – a failed marriage, the mean-spirited revenge of an infatuated student that led to her dismissal, the results of medical tests – has come to seem relatively unimportant. At its heart The Detour is about a woman holding her own in an environment where people and nature are equally threatening. Only by taking a detour is she able to reconcile herself to her own mortality.
The appearance of The Twin in 2005 transformed Gerbrand Bakker into one of the Netherlands’ foremost literary figures. International recognition followed, culminating in the prestigious IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Bakker, who studied Dutch language and literature before turning to horticulture, made his debut in 1999 with a book for young adults called Pear Trees Blossom White. Following The Twin and June (2009), The Detour is his third adult novel.
- ‘A beautiful, convincing and understated novel, with a sparing simplicity and expressiveness reminiscent of J.M. Coetzee.’ – Trouw