Thursday 4 February 2021

Book Review: The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld (Contemporary Fiction)

Title: The Discomfort of Evening
Author: Marieke Lucas Rijneveld
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Publication Date: 2020 (2018)
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Borrowed Copy

I thought about being too small for so much, but that no one told you when you were big enough ... and I asked God if he please couldn't take my brother Matthies instead of my rabbit. 'Amen.'

Jas lives with her devout farming family in the rural Netherlands. One winter's day, her older brother joins an ice skating trip; resentful at being left alone, she makes a perverse plea to God; he never returns. As grief overwhelms the farm, Jas succumbs to a vortex of increasingly disturbing fantasies, watching her family disintegrate into a darkness that threatens to derail them all.

A bestselling sensation in the Netherlands by a prize-winning young poet, Marieke Lucas Rijneveld's debut novel lays everything bare. It is a world of language unlike any other, which Michele Hutchison's striking translation captures in all its wild, violent beauty. Studded with unforgettable images - visceral, raw, surreal -
The Discomfort of the Evening is a radical reading experience that will leave you changed forever.


The Discomfort of Evening was a book I didn't dislike, but neither did I love it. I kept waiting for the characters and their situation to hook me, but it never did. It is a fairly visceral story with no holds barred, but the 'shocking' aspects barely nudged at me--I've read far more graphic stuff before, so this seemed mild in comparison--and I felt no emotional connection at all from start to finish. I borrowed this book from a colleague who often reads the nominees and winners of the big literary prizes each year, but this is now the second time I've borrowed a prize-winning book from her and found it lacklustre, bordering on dull. I'm usually left confused as to how these works won such major prizes, but clearly the judges on the panels have very different tastes to mine, and that's fine. It is the reason, though, why I pay scant attention to the literary prize lists each year. Anyway, going back to this particular work, I am giving it a 2.5-star rating that I would round up to a 3. The idea behind the story was an interesting one, but I felt it relied too much on trying to shock the reader, rather than connecting with them on a deeper level. If you are looking for something a little different, give it a try, but be warned that, while I was unaffected by the more taboo moments in the book, others may find them a little too much.

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