Winner of the 2010 IMPAC Dublin Award!
Shortlisted for Three Percent’s 2010 Best Translated Book Award
An NPR pick for Best Foreign Fiction of 2009
A School Library Journal Best Adult Book for High School Students, 2009
When his twin brother is killed in a car accident, Helmer is obliged to give up university to take over his brother’s role on the small family farm, resigning himself to spending the rest of his days “with his head under a cow.” The novel begins thirty years later with Helmer moving his invalid father upstairs out of the way, so that he can redecorate the downstairs, finally making it his own. Then Riet, the woman who had once been engaged to marry Helmer’s twin, appears and asks if her troubled eighteen-year-old son could come live on the farm for a while. Ostensibly a novel about the countryside, The Twin ultimately poses difficult questions about solitude and the possibility of taking life into one’s own hands. It chronicles a way of life that has resisted modernity, a world culturally apart yet laden with familiar longing.
The charm of Bakker’s book is how finely every element is balanced, how perfectly the story is paced. . . . Bakker shows a fine gift for laconic comedy. . . . The great pleasure of this novel is how it has just enough plot to allow us to relish its beautifully turned observations of birds and beasts, weather and water.
— Tim Parks, New York Review of Books
A novel of restrained tenderness and laconic humor.
— J.M. Coetzee
Bakker captures the feel of life in the Dutch countryside in a style which is both dazzling and subdued....a poignant story, recounted in a tone at once spare and loving.
— De Volkskrant
This is a novel of great brilliance and subtlety. It contains scenes of enveloping psychological force but is open-ended, its extraordinary last section suggesting that fulfilment of long-standing aspirations can arrive, unanticipated, in late middle-age. Human dramas are offset by landscape and animals feelingly delineated, and David Colmer's translation is distinguished by an exceptional (and crucial) ear for dialogue.
— Paul Binding
This is a quiet book, humble in tone, with a fine, self-deprecating humour […] It leaves the reader touched and with the impression of having seen and smelled the ever-damp Dutch platteland.
— Times Literary Supplement
There's a magic about this book which is difficult to capture.
Bakker’s paean to the Dutch countryside is beautifully understated, as is his portrayal of the characters.
Gerbrand Bakker’s outstanding debut novel, set in the Dutch countryside, is one of those rare works of fiction that everyone should read. It is full of life and truth, all conveyed through a narrative voice that refuses to allow the reader to turn away for a moment.
— The Irish Times
There is a yearning quality about the restrained, perambulating but elegant prose of The Twin . . .
— The Courier Mail (Australia)
Turning the last page leaves one achingly deprived, longing for more.
— The Sunday Independent
Gerbrand Bakker’s writing is fabulously clear, so clear that each sentence leaves a rippling wake.
— The Los Angeles Times
It never hits a false note.
Against the odds, against your own expectations, it all works.
— California Literary Review
In The Twin, Dutch author Gerbrand Bakker has accomplished the difficult task of rendering the static solitude of his protagonist into something dynamic and readable. In a prose style unhurried but visceral (translated without a false note by David Colmer), he creates and explores a loneliness that any reader would recognize as his own.
— The ArtsFuse
Penetrating, beautifully sparse, and eerie in its stillness . . .
— Three Percent
It is refreshing to find a book at once so engaging and intelligent, and in which stylistic simplicity is used with grace and effectiveness.
— The Quarterly Conversation
Dutch may be considered a “minor” language, but Bakker’s is a major work, restrained and beautiful.
— Tottenville Review
Bakker’s style is lucid and spare. . . . The landscape, the weather — which is everywhere — are all succinctly captured . . .