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review 2017-11-10 08:00
Mevrouw Verona Daalt De Heuvel Af
Mevrouw Verona daalt de heuvel af - Dimitri Verhulst

~Short English review below~


In mijn zoektocht naar boeken voor mijn Nederlands literatuurexamen kwam ik ook Mevrouw Verona daalt de heuvel af tegen. Het was in eerste instantie niet het boek dat ik van Dimitri Verhulst zocht, maar ik heb deze toch meegenomen uit de bieb (was het enige boek van hem dat niet uitgeleend was) en ik heb er geen spijt van gehad.

Mevrouw Verona daalt de heuvel (waarop haar huis staat) af naar het dorpje aan de voet ervan in de wetenschap dat ze de kracht niet meer zal hebben de heuvel opnieuw op te klimmen. Mevrouw Verona neemt afscheid van het leven en denkt daarbij terug aan haar man, de liefde van haar leven en de geschiedenis van het dorpje, dat ook langzaam maar zeker uitsterft.

Ik vond het een mooi boekje. Het verhaal is niet erg lang, maar het is lang genoeg om het verhaal te vertellen. Mevrouw Verona is de spil tussen een heel aantal zeer korte verhalen uit het dorp. Het las lekker, de schrijfstijl was wel duidelijk Vlaams, maar dat vind ik vaak net wel leuk. Het is een boek waarmee je 's middags ergens lekker gaat zitten, en weer opstaat als je het uithebt. Dat kan ook prima, vanwege het feit dat het maar een ruime 100 pagina's lang is. Het heeft mij wel benieuwd gemaakt naar andere boeken van deze schrijver...




An interesting short novella about an old woman who lives at the top of a hill and who decides to walk down for the last time, knowing she doesn't have the strength to get up to her house again. While doing so, she overthinks her life. I was pleasantly surprised with this book, but to date haven't read anything else by this author.

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review 2017-04-30 17:49
The Misfortunates by Dimitri Verhulst
The Misfortunates - Dimitri Verhulst,David Colmer

Based on the protagonist’s sharing the author’s full name, and the little information about Verhulst available in English, this short, episodic novel appears to be autobiographical. Somewhat more than half of it focuses on Dimitri’s boyhood, surrounded by the raging drunks that are his father and three uncles. In these chapters Dimitri himself almost disappears, but one gets the sense of a narrator struggling with the tension between his affection and nostalgia for these incorrigible relatives, and his ultimate rejection of their lifestyle after they fail him in ways that are largely left to the reader’s imagination. In later chapters Dimitri appears as a not-particularly-endearing adult, and the book becomes even more episodic – it’s almost more of a short story collection than a novel – as major events are referenced only in passing. It makes sense thematically but leaves a great deal untold.

The book is set in Belgium and originally written in Dutch, but the translation is skillful and flows well. Early on some of the descriptions wallow in the muck to a fairly repulsive degree (generally related to bodily fluids), but this is less a feature of the entire book than of the early chapters. And they do speak to an eye for detail. The individual characters are not especially distinguishable, but the culture of Dimitri’s family and his community come to life (the encounters between the men of the family and Dimitri’s refined, well-off aunt and cousin, and later a cultured immigrant family, throw their mostly well-intentioned boorishness into particularly sharp relief). There’s an adept balancing of entertainment value and the narrator’s darker view of the world, sprinkled with brief, pointed references to the meaninglessness of life.

There’s certainly something to this book, and some readers will connect strongly to this ode to a dysfunctional family. But the narrator’s emotional distance combined with his often poor treatment of others once reaching adulthood, the episodic nature of a story without any unifying plot, the gross-out factor, and the rather limited, child’s-eye view of the primary characters made it difficult for me to become engrossed in the story. We’ll call this one a neutral reference.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2013-11-15 00:00
The Misfortunates
The Misfortunates - Dimitri Verhulst I obtained this book through Goodreads' First Reads and really enjoyed it for the most part. The style of writing drew me in, making it easy to get lost in the narrative. The characters felt real, and generally I sympathized with the protagonist and understood his point of view, although some of his thoughts and choices annoyed me enough to keep things lively.

The only thing that threw me off while I was reading was the non-linear timeline. Generally the book would seem to be going along chronologically, and then it would skip ahead for a bit, only to backtrack. Sometimes I had trouble understanding where something fit in the overall timing but with context managed to sort it out.

There were elements of the story that were glossed over that I felt could have used more attention. Dimitri's continuing antagonism toward his mother into adulthood seems extreme without a little more backstory. It is clear that the Verhulst family wasn't hard to find, and that she seemingly made no attempt to contact her son. It is unusual that she didn't make a reappearance somewhere around the time the social workers and foster system became involved (which were also only briefly introduced). This indifference on her part is more illustrative of their relationship than the "pee pass" embarrassment. His reference to her as a whore without explanation also seems odd and more detail on that would have been helpful in aligning the reader firmly on Dimitri's side against her.

Dimitri clearly becomes a very different person by the end of the book than he gearing up to be during his childhood, and I would have liked to witness the evolution of that person more. It's hard to see what changed without more detail about those years in foster care and directly following. That said, I enjoyed the book and would definitely read more by this author.
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review 2013-10-23 19:30
De laatkomer / druk 2
De laatkomer - Dimitri Verhulst Een echt Vlaamse roman (door de gebruikte taal), maar een thema om even bij stil te staan. Andere meningen/besprekingen: Watleesjijnu.nl: http://www.watleesjij.nu/boek/1313875/de-laatkomer Enola.be: http://enola.be/meer/boeken/22305:dimitri-verhulst--de-laatkomer
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review 2013-02-11 00:00
Dinsdagland - Schetsen van België
Dinsdagland - Schetsen van België - Dimitri Verhulst This book by Dimitri Verhulst (a Belgian writer) hasn’t been translated to English yet, which is a pity because this book reflects little things of Belgium. In each of the chapters, he tells something about 1 particular thing typical for Belgium but what is not normally associated with of known about Belgium. Some things he addresses are cycling and Eddy Merckx, pigeons, trains, Spa, …

Some parts are so recognizable which makes it funny to read. Particular things are also tragic if you think about it, similar to a previous book of him ‘The Misfortunates’. It is written in a style that is so typical Verhulst: long sentences with a lot of words. For this reason you have to read some sentences a few times before you understand them.

This is a very good book by Dimitri Verhulst, written in his typical style. It feel sorry that it hasn’t been translated into English, but even if it would be translated, I think a lot of the typical writing style will be lost then.

This review was originally posted on my website: http://booksforthoughts.weebly.com/index.html
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