Book of the Month: You Have Me to Love

December’s Book of the Month is an atmospheric, dark and completely addictive work of fiction from Dutch author Jaap Robben. You Have Me to Love was chosen 2014 Book of the Year by booksellers across the Netherlands, and with its UK release, readers are in for a treat…

9789462380653December’s book of the month is an intoxicating work of fiction from popular Dutch playwright, poet and author Jaap Robben. Published by World Editions, You Have Me to Love is, at its core, the story of a disturbed relationship between a mother and son that manifests on a small, remote island between Scotland and Norway.

The novel focuses on a young boy named Mikael who is saved from drowning by his father.  The ocean is rough, and in saving Mikael his father is thrown against the rocks and killed. In shock and unsure of how to tell his mother, Mikael blocks out the memory, leading to a frantic search. When his mother realises what has happened their relationship violently changes; she becomes psychotic, forcing Mikael to replace his father in every possible way.

The novel is as dark as it is addictive, offering terrific empathy for the child while acting as an examination of grief and the very essence of human relationships. Full of magnificent sentences and tightly wound prose, it has been praised across the Netherlands, with Flemish newspaper De Morgen writing: “Robben lifts you from your life and sweeps you away, with no chance of escaping” and Het Parool describing the book as “…faultless in [its] description of a child’s inner world.”

Perhaps even more telling than the praise from Dutch media is that from booksellers across the Netherlands, who chose You Have Me to Love as their Best Book of 2014, awarding it the prestigious Dutch Bookseller Award.

We can expect the English translation to be just as enthusiastically received by both booksellers and the reading public. Not only is the book an excellent work of contemporary literary fiction that hooks you from page one, it is also an exciting addition to the current trend of translated fiction, which has been gaining momentum since the success of authors such as Elena Ferrante.

An atmospheric, all-consuming fiction choice for the winter months, I will leave you with perhaps the most powerful review quote thus far. As novelist Gerbrand Bakker (winner of the 2010 IMPAC prize and the 2013 Independent foreign Fiction Prize) writes, the novel is “beautiful, just beautiful.” UK audiences are in for a real treat with this title.

  • Bill Godber, M.D.

You Have Me to Love is published on December 3 by World Editions and costs £10.99. (ISBN: 9789462380653)

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