“An unsettling exploration of a family dealing with a sudden death . . . A strong debut. Rijneveld’s poetic prose, eloquently translated by Michele Hutchison, clashes and rattles against the horrors it describes, a constant fight between terror and beauty. It is a novel that does its best to make sure you won’t forget it anytime soon.”


This is a touching, somewhat beautiful, though disturbing debut novel, which, as I write has been selected for the short list of the Booker International Prize 2020 and deservedly so.

Rijneveld writes in the first person, the tale being told through the thoughts and observations of ten year old Jas up to her being twelve…and what observations! They sometimes seem too advanced for a child but this is no ordinary child and this is no ordinary book. I especially loved the portrayal of the slow decline of her mother which is full of pathos and often, desperation.

Rijneveld’s/Jas’ style flows well and is easy to read; she had me at the first line and not many authors do that.

I did have to frequently remind myself that the jaw-dropping naivety of the children was due to their strict, reformist upbringing, at times more cult than religion.

There are scenes which some readers will find uncomfortable, some are very disturbing but none are gratuitous. And whilst the first line had me hooked, the last had me holding my breath. A stunning debut, beautifully written and I assume skillfully translated; I’m crossing my fingers for the Booker!


Reviewed by:

Rebecca Masterman

Added 14th June 2020