Today, it’s a review of another type of Booker Prize winner… the winner of the 2020 International Booker Prize, The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld and translated by Michele Hutchison.
I’ve talked a lot about the Booker Prize on the blog lately but today, it’s all about this year’s winner of the International Booker Prize, The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld and translated by Michele Hutchison. And I really enjoyed it. But what is it about? Here is a synopsis:
Ten-year-old Jas has a unique way of experiencing her universe: the feeling of udder ointment on her skin as protection against harsh winters; the texture of green warts, like capers, on migrating toads; the sound of ‘blush words’ that aren’t in the Bible. But when a tragic accident ruptures the family, her curiosity warps into a vortex of increasingly disturbing fantasies – unlocking a darkness that threatens to derail them all.
A bestselling sensation in the Netherlands, Marieke Lucas Rijneveld’s radical debut novel is studded with images of wild, violent beauty: a world of language unlike any other, exquisitely captured in Michele Hutchison’s translation.
I’ve had this book for a while as I was sent a proof but when I tried getting into it, I just couldn’t so I put it down. And then it was long-listed for the International Booker Prize this year and it grabbed my attention again but it wasn’t until it won that I thought I would order myself a copy of the finished paperback and try and start again and I am so glad I did.
“In discomfort we are real.”
I think this book is all about the timing of when you read it. You need to be in the right headspace to take it all in which I wasn’t when I first started reading it. The subject matter and pretty much all of the novel is very bleak and a disturbing, challenging read but it’s also beautifully written that is captured in the translation. This isn’t an easy book that you can read a few chapters and finish it without thinking of it. It will stay in your thoughts for a very long time.
I think the writing is beautiful. There were some passages that I kept reading and reading over and over again, it’s that good. It’s very atmospheric, poetic, sharp, clinical and quite violent, too. I can see why this won the International Booker Prize, it’s just superbly written. There are number of themes at play in the novel, mostly about grief and loss which is tackled brilliantly, especially from a child’s perspective. It’s about childhood, family, growing up, nature, violence, tragedy and so much more.
Like I said, it’s not an easy read but the writing is crystal clear. It’s atmospheric, dark, moody and I loved how it explored different manifestations of grief in one family from a child’s perspective. I don’t think this will be a book for everyone but once I got into the story, it was very hard to leave.
Have you read The Discomfort of Evening? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!