Have you ever wanted to disappear and make a new life for yourself where no one knows your name?
Ten White Geese is the eagerly anticipated, internationally bestselling new novel by the winner of the world’s richest literary prize for a single work of fiction. Fans of Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses or Paul Harding’s Tinkers may find in Ten White Geese a new novel to fall in love with.
A woman rents a remote farm in rural Wales. She says her name is Emilie. An Emily Dickinson scholar, she has fled Amsterdam, having just confessed to an affair. On the farm she finds ten geese. One by one they disappear. Who is this woman? Will her husband manage to find her? The young man who stays the night: why won’t he leave? And the vanishing geese?
Set against a stark and pristine landscape, and with a seductive blend of solace and menace, this novel of stealth intrigue summons from a woman’s silent longing fugitive moments of profound beauty and compassion.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.70(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Gerbrand Bakker won the 2010 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for his first novel, The Twin. An avid gardener, he lives in Holland.
David Colmer is the translator of Bakker's novel The Twin.
What People are Saying About This
Winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize
"A beautiful book . . . Mysterious and sometimes menacing." —Jacki Lyden, NPR’s Weekend All Things Considered
"One of the most beautifully written novels in recent memory . . . Powerful . . . Bleak and lovely in equal measure . . . Bakker captures the gorgeous desolation of the natural world as few contemporary writers can. And he makes Agnes a compelling enigma until the last page." —Newsday
"[An] affecting mystery . . . pocketed with meaning and subtly menacing. It moves rapidly along." —The New Yorker
“Intense . . . Evocative and unsettling . . . Like other recent novels it slightly resembles, such as Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee and Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson, Ten White Geese has the laconic texture and angular plotting of a thriller, with shifting points of view that keep the reader guessing about what surprise is lurking around the corner.” —Christopher Benfey, The New York Review of Books
"Satisfyingly enigmatic . . . Bakker establishes a steadily mounting tension via an unlikely reworking of quotidian moments [and] strange, haunting glimpses of a disrupted life. . . . Though there are moments of ominous human contact, this novel also contains wry comedy and unlikely moments of human connection. . . . Memorably surreal." —Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"The holy writ in Dutch writer Gerbrand Bakker’s novel Ten White Geese is the hauntingly inscrutable poetry of Emily Dickinson. . . . Everything comes at that strange Dickinsonian slant, lighting up the seemingly ordinary natural surroundings with an unearthly aura of menace." —The Wall Street Journal
"Luckily for all of us, Ten White Geese takes us to authentic depths. . . . Abiding humanity runs throughout. . . . Lovely." —The Philadelphia Inquirer
"Astonishing . . . Immensely gripping . . . The sentences follow one another with the hypnotic cadence of an incantation. . . . Ten White Geese raises questions of a profound nature . . . with a poise and sensitivity that is second to none." —The Quarterly Conversation
"Quietly haunting and poignant . . . A finely crafted character study." —World Literature Today
"Breathtakingly beautiful . . . Eerie and utterly compelling . . . There is a strain of humor here that . . . had me laughing out loud. . . . What drives this novel is a slow and sometimes menacing erotic burn. . . . [It] has much of the feel of a thriller, with a tense atmosphere that makes for a brisk, immersive read." —Garth Greenwell, Towleroad
"Oddly gripping . . . Intriguingly crafted . . . Impressively atmospheric and a solid good read." —The Complete Review
"Luminous . . . Mysterious . . . Remarkably organic . . . Woven in many somber tones, rather like a Rothko painting . . . Bakker’s language is studded with sensuality. . . . Reading this book may make you feel fantastically solitary." —Barnes and Noble Review
"Mysterious . . . Bakker’s spare prose gradually builds a sense of urgency beneath this haunting novel’s deceptively placid surface." —Publishers Weekly, starred review and Pick of the Week
"Essential reading for fans of literary fiction . . . Haunting, fearless, and heartbreaking . . . Brave and beautifully realized." —Library Journal
"Hypnotic . . . Haunting . . . Heartbreaking . . . Vividly conjure[s] the misty, mossy landscape [and] illuminates [Emily] Dickinson’s life." —Booklist
"The exquisitely clear style of Ten White Geese, in this beautifully natural translation, sustains a tightly controlled and tense story as it gradually reveals itself, ever surprising and suspenseful and impossible to predict from one page to the next. A powerful, unusual, and engrossing novel." —Lydia Davis, author of Varieties of Disturbance
"Ten White Geese is unlike anything I have read. In language deceptively spare and almost excruciatingly precise, it lays at our feet a host of secrets that will not yield to waking logic. It will stretch and vex and haunt, this novel; it has the queer, ruthless beauty of a dream." —Leah Hager Cohen, author of The Grief of Others
"I loved Gerbrand Bakker’s beautiful novel The Twin, but nothing could have prepared me for the singular experience of reading Ten White Geese. Mr. Bakker illuminates the beautiful, tragic darkness at the core of every life with a meticulously honest compassion that is both heartbreaking and revivifying. This book stopped me in my tracks, and moved me beyond words." —Peter Cameron, author of Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You
"A beautiful, oddly moving work of fiction, a quiet read that lingers long in the mind, like the ghosts that linger in our homes, and in the land around us . . . Assured and mature . . . Even more powerful [than The Twin]." —John Burnside, The Guardian (London)
"Simple and devastating . . . Written and translated with lapidary precision, perspective, and crisp prose; there is emotion and expression, but held back from the writing, which is controlled and full of clean, physical detail."—The Independent (London)
"A novel full of hints and mysteries [that] will almost certainly keep you rooted to your chair until the dénouement."—The Spectator (London)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
It is no surprise that a book about a scholar deeply immersed in the work of Emily Dickinson is also about death. The titular ten geese, by the end of this book, number only four. But this book is about deception, too, and perception; love, and relationships; nature, and gardens. We pass two months in Wales but every season is accounted for. Gerbrand Bakker has created a knotty piece of fine art for us to contemplate. We never learn how old she is, Agnes, or Emily as she liked to be called. We know she is probably at the end of child-bearing age, so desperately had she tried to conceive. She is an intellectual, writing a dissertation on the poems of Emily Dickinson, that poet she must have once admired but grew to resent. She is ill. We learn that early, along with her sense of being stuck, and unsure in which direction to go. She arrives in Wales alone, escaping the failures of her past. She walks. One day a badger bites her foot as she lies sunbathing on a rock. Not long after, Bradwen, a boy, and Sam, his dog, stumble into her yard and stay. But statements about events are foreplay here, for there is undertone and atmosphere and references and indications which are more of the book than the story itself. Like poetry, perhaps? After her encounter with the badger, Emily pulls out her copy of The Wind in the Willows, one of the main characters of which is a badger. The book is mentioned again when Bradwen takes it from the house on his departure. That The Wind in the Willows is mentioned more than once cannot be coincidence. But why that book? Perhaps we are to draw light comparisons between Emily and Toad for she is at her happiest in the bath; makes a mash of her career; alienates and betrays those close to her; is “on the run.” Bradwen might be Rat, for he carried a backpack and simply takes what he needs for his journeys, offering friendship to Toad when he needs it most, and is locked up while Toad makes his escape. Bradwen is a curious figure whom we can’t see as a reliable character. He lies by omission, as does “Emily.” He never tells Emily who his father is and how he came to stay in this place, but clearly he is at home in it. He is willing to make meals in exchange for a bed. He shares a comforting, unerotic coupling with Emily, filled more with silence than sound, and worries ever after that his generosity might add to her burdens. Sam the dog might be Mole, who accompanies Rat and finds the badger. A badger is a solitary creature “who simply hates society”--perhaps the reclusive Ms. Dickinson herself?--clever, generous, and welcoming when another comes to visit, but must be sought out. Friendly but fearful and elusive, the badger and doesn’t ever seem to come when called. Dickinson was apparently better known as a gardener while she was living than for writing poetry. Does this draw a line from Bakker to Dickinson, and badgers? Gerbrand Bakker writes with a clarity and a depth that borders on knowledge—about pain, confusion, hurt, alienation, even sickness unto death—and in the voice of a woman. “I’m a strange man, maybe, but I think there is no fundamental difference between men and women. A lot of people would say otherwise, perhaps.” (NPR interview, 2013) This point of view may come from his training as a gardener. Humans of either sex are the same species: one sex has basically the same wants, needs, desires as the other—our differences don’t define our essential character. That having been said, this was a woman apart and in exquisite pain. I recognize her, but I hope I never meet (am) her. Ach. Gerbrand Bakker’s book refuses to leave me. In the same seven minute NPR interview mentioned above, Bakker says that the process of writing this novel precipitated in him a great depression. I am not surprised. But literature can make us think about what man is, and Bakker doesn't leave us bereft. We still have The Wind in the Willows.
Maybe it was the translation, maybe it is the bleakness of the story - I don't know but I did not enjoy this book. The main character is not very interesting although she had an affair with a student and then leaves town (really leaves town to a whole other country). Still, I kept thinking, "Who cares?"
The woman appears almost mysteriously, renting the little cottage recently left empty after the previous owner died. She keeps to herself and spends her time fixing up the place. Enter the young man on a journey with his dog, and they all find a quiet existence together. This was a very quiet, slow-moving story. It sort of reminded me of a little known Sean Connery movie called Five Days One Summer. Just slow and meandering, light on the dialogue, picturesque. The setting for this story is a very idyllic place, with things like “the kissing gate”, the stone circle, geese, pond, and charming bakers in town. I had no idea how much of a "mystery" this story would be. The character Emily is mysterious. You don't know why she is at this cottage, and are given glimpses into her other life. You don't know who this boy is that shows up with his dog, or what his intentions are. What about the other characters? Who was the woman who lived in the cottage before Emily? And what about those darn geese and sheep? Who do they belong to? There are allusions early on to Emily's failing health, but this isn't clarified until later on. Perhaps this is the reason she is so impersonal and nondescript. The boy is generally referred to as “the boy” and the dog as “the dog”. Names are rarely used. She doesn’t want to be personally involved, and wants to be alone. My final word: This story was well-written, and beautifully descriptive, making it easy for me to see the green hills, stone walls, quaint cottage, elusive geese. I didn't realize just how much of a mysterious bent the story would carry, but I enjoyed it. And it really sparked an interest in Emily Dickinson, with little blurbs of Dickinson poetry throughout. My one complaint is that there were a few dangling plotlines that left me hanging. Characters and ideas would be introduced only to fade away, questions arose and were left unanswered. But overall I enjoyed it. If you enjoy a quiet story with beautiful scenery, give this one a shot.