The Discomfort of Evening: A Novel by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book won the International Booker Prize a day ago or so and at that point I was at the halfway point. It is about Jas, a girl of around 10, trying to make sense of the world around her after the death of her brother. It takes place in the rural Netherlands, where her family runs a farm with cows. The voice of Jas is vibrant, combining the limited understanding of that age with what she can observe and with what she's understood from what others have taught her - religion, science, manners, etc. Along with her siblings, their understanding of the world almost creates its own mythology.
Her parents check out in their grief, and she has to navigate quite a bit on her own, arguably to the point of neglect. She struggles with digestion, safety, and hygiene, and she's never going to take off her coat.
I don't think this book will be for everyone. Topics that may be troubling include sexual exploration/abuse (the line is a bit blurry I must say, at least from Jas's perspective), animal cruelty and animal death, death of a child, suicidal ideation, and, well, poo. There is a lot about bodily functions here, so much that I started wondering if I was supposed to insert Freud into my understanding here. I didn't but ...
I kept thinking back to a book I read a couple of years ago - Kassandra and the Wolf by Margarita Karapanou, with the unforgettable voice of a young child and her Frank somewhat disturbing world viewpoint. I think readers that like one will like the other.
I haven't read more than one other International Booker Prize shortlist title, but I would have chosen this book over that one. I'd like to eventually read all of them, but I still have my eye on some of the long list titles.
I read this interesting article on the author around the time the book was nominated for the International Booker.
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