notes on dutch literature

Love’s Death

In Review on November 19, 2012 at 8:30 AM

Love's Death - Oscar van den Boogaard

A destroyed family and an artfully concealed secret history are laid bare with near-surgical precision in Loves Death, a superbly constructed 1999 novel, the fifth (and first in English translation) by one of Holland’s most accomplished and respected writers Oscar  van den Bogaard. Love’s Death was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001 and translated by Ina Rilke.

It begins in 1973 with a heartstopping description of Inez Herman’s discovery of the body of her neighbors’ young daughter Vera Klein at the bottom of the Hermans’ swimming pool. Then, in present-tense narration, and rapid-fire sequences of brief declarative sentences, van den Boogard focuses on the grief of Vera’s mother Oda Klein, her withdrawal from her stricken husband Paul (a career army officer), and Paul’s later “escape” to a military post in Suriname, and his three-year separation from Oda. Then the narrative leaps ahead to 1980, Paul’s return home and muted reconciliation with the emotionally opaque Oda: a situation that’s complicated when Daisy—a 15-year-old American girl staying with the Hermans—becomes the Kleins’ houseguest, remaining with them after the Hermans’ house has been mostly destroyed by a mysterious fire; becoming, in effect, a replacement for the daughter Oda and Paul have lost.

Read here the review by Kirkus Reviews

Stylistically, Love’s Death is astounding. Boogaard deftly stretches out time through acute attention to every detail, mirroring the attempts of the characters to keep a hold of something in the present. The narrative is told almost entirely in the present tense and at times with such sparseness, such directness, that the sense of loss permeating the text is truly experienced by the reader.
– Jason D. Fichtel, Review of Contemporary Fiction , Fall 2001


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