Review: Craving by Esther Gerritsen

I read this as my ‘A book based entirely on its cover’ for the 2015 Reading Challenge. I am quite easily pleased, so it was the curved edges of the book that were interesting for me.

I had a few disputes with the blurb of this translation from the Netherlander playwright. The book revolves around the disjointed relationship of Coco and her mother Elisabeth.  This is not simply an exploration of the Mother/Daughter relationship but also about the unraveling of a family and it’s member and most notably the clash of mental unrest / illness in a household. This is all brought upon by Elisabeth’s impending death.

I mentioned earlier that Gerritsen is a playwright, this shows through in her writing and the translation has picked up on that quickly. The dialogue in this novel is fantastic, and extremely poignant as the two main characters find it difficult to talk to one another and to express their true meaning. The dialogue is true to life, relateable and colloquial in a way that reflects it’s original setting and language but is also accessible for the English language reader.

The use of flashback in the book is a brilliant tell of the characters, hindsight breeds multiple perceptions and the narrative switching between Coco and Elisabeth allows the reader to fill in the missing gaps as well as acknowledge the differences between each story. I came unstuck with the novel at the end, as Elisabeth is dying; always a sticky point for a writer as each reader has their own interpretation of the after-life. Elisabeth’s description of passing is the most reliable narrative of the whole novel, once she is free of the pressures of her life and her own connotations.

Ultimately, this was a beautiful read. The translator has done a fantastic job of merging the two cultures, there is a visible seam between the two but it only adds to the creative mixture of this novel.

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