Saturday, May 11, 2013

REVIEW: Ten White Geese (The Detour) by Gerbrand Bakker


The eagerly anticipated, internationally bestselling new novel by the winner of the world’s richest literary prize for a single work of fiction

A woman rents a remote farm in rural Wales. She says her name is Emilie. An Emily Dickinson scholar, she has fled Amsterdam, having just confessed to an affair. On the farm she finds ten geese. One by one they disappear. Who is this woman? Will her husband manage to find her? The young man who stays the night: why won’t he leave? And the vanishing geese?

Set against a stark and pristine landscape, and with a seductive blend of solace and menace, this novel of stealth intrigue summons from a woman’s silent longing fugitive moments of profound beauty and compassion.

About the Author
(being Dutch, it's hard to find info on him that is in English)

Gerbrand Bakker is a Dutch writer. In 2010, he won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for the English translation of his novel, The Twin (Boven is het stil).

Check out his website (it's in Dutch)
Check out the author on Wikipedia

My Thoughts
Early one morning she saw the badgers. They were near the stone circle she had discovered a few days earlier and wanted to see at dawn. She had always thought of them as peaceful, shy and somehow lumbering animals, but they were fighting and hissing.

This story takes place in Wales.
By User:Gdr (Photograph by en user User:Gdr) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
NOTE: My ARC was called Ten White Geese, but it seems the title may have been changed to The Detour.

The woman appears almost mysteriously, renting the little cottage recently left empty after the previous owner died. She keeps to herself and spends her time fixing up the place. Enter the young man on a journey with his dog, and they all find a quiet existence together. 

This was a very quiet, slow-moving story. It sort of reminded me of a little known Sean Connery movie called Five Days One Summer. Just slow and meandering, light on the dialogue, picturesque.

The setting for this story is a very idyllic place, with things like “the kissing gate”, the stone circle,  geese, pond, and charming bakers in town.
Never before had she seen so many stars. Never before had she looked up at them naked on her knees in late November. (page 72)
I had no idea how much of a "mystery" this story would be. The character Emily is mysterious. You don't know why she is at this cottage, and are given glimpses into her other life. You don't know who this boy is that shows up with his dog, or what his intentions are. What about the other characters? Who was the woman who lived in the cottage before Emily? And what about those darn geese and sheep? Who do they belong to?
It was just those geese; they were peculiar. Had she rented the geese too? And one morning a large flock of black sheep suddenly appeared in the field beside the road, every one with a white blaze and a long white-tipped tail. On her land. Who did they belong to? (page 10)
There are allusions early on to Emily's failing health, but this isn't clarified until later on. Perhaps this is the reason she is so impersonal and nondescript. The boy is generally referred to as “the boy” and the dog as “the dog”. Names are rarely used. She doesn’t want to be personally involved, and wants to be alone.
The dog had slipped away from his warm spot in front of the cooker and when she quietly climbed the first half of the staircase she saw him lying in front of the closed bathroom door. He raised his head and watched her attentively. She shook her head and went downstairs again and the dog followed her. (page 82)
The boy and the dog had their own smells, especially the dog, and she hadn’t put the lid back on the soup pan. (page 84)
My final word: This story was well-written, and beautifully descriptive, making it easy for me to see the green hills, stone walls, quaint cottage, elusive geese. I didn't realize just how much of a mysterious bent the story would carry, but I enjoyed it. And it really sparked an interest in Emily Dickenson, with little blurbs of Dickenson poetry throughout. My one complaint is that there were a few dangling plotlines that left me hanging. Characters and ideas would be introduced only to fade away, questions arose and were left unanswered. But overall I enjoyed it. If you enjoy a quiet story with beautiful scenery, give this one a shot.

And I'll leave you with a Dickenson poem that I was introduced to, thanks to this book:

TWO butterflies went out at noon   
And waltzed above a stream,   
Then stepped straight through the firmament   
And rested on a beam;   

And then together bore away
Upon a shining sea,—   
Though never yet, in any port,   
Their coming mentioned be.   

If spoken by the distant bird,   
If met in ether sea
By frigate or by merchantman,   
Report was not to me.

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble

Cover: A-
Writing Style: A-
Characters: B+
Storyline/Plot: B+
Interest/Uniqueness: B

My Rating:


I received a copy of this book to review through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

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