The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker

The TwinA review of The Twin I stumbled upon was intriguing enough that I jotted down the title and eventually added it to my 2nd list of 100 Books to read.

It was refreshing to find a contemporary writer who doesn’t pale among the revered early 20th century writers.  The next time I hear someone claim there are no good writers anymore, I’ll throw Bakker’s name their way.

A Dutch farmer living with his elderly father reflects on the life he was dealt after his twin brother dies unexpectedly at age 20.  Gruff and insensitive, the surviving brother has not grown at all in the 35 years since the family tragedy.

Helmer van Wonderen is the antithesis of an evolved man.  Extremely bitter about stepping into his brother’s farm boots and giving up university studies, he has trudged along and accepted his role, yet seems to have died along with his sibling.  His treatment of his ailing father was disturbing and meant to make the reader shift uncomfortably whilst perusing.  I hoped for Helmer’s salvation, however, it arrived a little bit too saccharine coated.

Neighbor to Helmer, Ada is well-intentioned, but primarily a lonely woman, mother to two young boys with a seemingly disinterested husband.  She attempts to draw Helmer out of his self-isolation and may be harboring an attraction to the man nearly two decades her senior.  When Ada and Helmer catch one another by surprise using binoculars to see into their respective homes, neither can later look one another in the eye.

The 18-year-old angst ridden son of Riet, former girlfriend to Helmer’s deceased brother, Henk is also his namesake.  His apathetic behavior troubles his mother who sends him to stay with Helmer as a farm hand.  Henk seems to be the only one honest about his feelings, quite typical for a young man of his age.  This surly, somewhat sombre teen is more grounded than the adults around him.

I’ve no doubt that any meeting with Mr. Bakker would be held in the out-of-doors.  His intensity might prove intimidating so perhaps we could weed or rake to quell the awkward silence that would hover over us.  His raw and honest prose is something perhaps he’d share the skill of with me.

My rating for The Twin is an 8 out of 10.

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Next up, William Faulkner’s The ReiversThe Reivers


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