The Twin – Gerbrand Bakker

The Twin Translated from the Dutch by David Colmer

Winner of 2010 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award

Five words from the blurb: remote, Dutch, twin, death, choices

The Twin is a quiet, tender story about one man learning to cope with the loss of his twin brother. Helmer lives on a remote Dutch farm with his dying father. He never wanted to be a farmer, but the death of his twin forced him to return to the family home. Helmer’s isolated existence is brought to an end by the sudden arrival of his twin’s fiancee.

Very little actually happens in this book, but I was captivated its emotional intensity. I quickly felt that I understood Helmer and his frustration at the way his life had unfolded. 

‘You never said anything,’ Father says. ‘You never said you didn’t want to.’

‘You didn’t have much choice.’ I walk back to the window and follow the line of the dyke until I can see the lighthouse again.


The writing was simple, but allowed subtle emotion to bubble through to the surface of every page.

From the description you’d expect this to be a depressing book, but while there were a few sad moments, I found that the tone always lifted before I had a chance to shed a tear.

This book won’t be for everyone, but if you’re in the mood for a book that investigates the inevitability of life then this is the perfect choice.


The thoughts of other bloggers:

As painful as it is, it’s a wonderous experience to dwell with them for a time. The Mookse and the Gripes

This simple book surprised me. I will read it again. Page247

The scenery is wonderfully described you get the feeling of isolation and strangeness of platteland… Winstonsdad’s Blog

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  1. JoV says:

    ahhh.. this is the 2011 IMPAC winner. I find the list quite diverse and electic and don’t always get news about IMPAC. I’ll watch out for this one. Thanks for the review!

    1. Jackie says:

      Jo, I think the 2011 winner is Let The Great World Spin. The Twin won last year. I often find great books on the IMPAC list, although as it is so diverse there are often a few duds too ;-)

  2. A Dutch writer – but I haven’t read him. Well, most people haven’t read all the authors from their country. But it sounds interesting. I love rural stories in the Netherlands.

    1. Jackie says:

      Judith, If you like rural Dutch books then I’m sure you’ll love this one. Enjoy :-)

    1. Jackie says:

      It sounds as though the Curious Book Fan loved it as much as I did. :-)

  3. MJ says:

    I’ve read a few of the IMPAC winners (by chance). The only one I didn’t like was this year’s winner! I loved “Out Stealing Horses” and “A Heart So White.” “The Twin” sounds like one to add to my ever-growing tbr list.

    1. Jackie says:

      MJ, I didn’t really enjoy Out Stealing Horses, but have loved many of the other winners and so normally give them a try at some point. It sounds as though you’ll like this one too. Fingers crossed :-)

  4. stujallen says:

    I loved the space in this book Jackie the setting so made it for me ,all the best stu

    1. stujallen says:

      thanks for the mention as well

      1. Jackie says:

        Stu, Yes, it does have a very atmospheric sense of place. Can’t say it has made me want to visit there, but the sense of isolation came through very strongly.

        1. Stujallen says:

          To me too been through that part of holland and he caught it well and not in a rush either to visit there all the beat stu

  5. gavin says:

    Thanks for the link, Jackie. I loved this book and really do want to read it again.

    1. Jackie says:

      gavin, I can see that you might discover more with each re-read. Enjoy!

  6. Andy Larter says:

    This book has a subtlety and depth that belies its simplicity. I like the way it charts Helmer’s disappointments and the way he puts with so much in his life. Pretty much like the animals he keeps in his simple, remote life. I also like the way the past keeps hammering away at him and that it takes the long lost farm hand’s return to help him see that there may just be more to life than mourning his twin brother and despising his father. A lovely book.

    1. Jackie says:

      Andy, Thank you for commenting on my blog for the first time! I agree that the simplicity of the writing hides an impressive depth. I rarely enjoy books so subtle, but this one managed to impress me. I hope he writes more books as good as this one.

  7. Iris says:

    I haven’t read the Twin yet, but it was high up on my list for Dutch Lit Month, hopefully next year. I am so glad the book is not sad through and through.

  8. Simon T says:

    Coming to this review very late, but I am intrigued about it – I love books about twins, and (as you know!) books where little happens. If even you, with your love of plot, were compelled by this, then it could definitely be up my street!


  1. August Summary – Farm Lane Books Blog
  2. Read Along: The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker | Iris on Books

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