cover image Ten White Geese

Ten White Geese

Gerbrand Bakker. Penguin, $15 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-0-14-312267-8

Disappearing geese and an inexplicably hostile badger inhabit an otherwise eerily depopulated Welsh landscape in Bakker’s second novel (after the award-winning The Twin), which probes the inner landscape of its protagonist to equally mysterious effect. As a Dutch woman—who calls herself Emilie, perhaps misleadingly—moves around her rented farmhouse and the adjacent property, she has unsettling encounters with the local wildlife, and awkward encounters with town locals, who refuse to believe her story about being attacked by the badger. In Emilie’s native Amsterdam, we meet her oblivious parents and bewildered husband, still reacting to the affair with a university student that ended her academic career. What we learn very little about, however, is what she thinks of all this, except for her growing sense of disdain toward her Ph.D. thesis subject, Emily Dickinson. Bakker, while only hinting at what lies behind Emilie’s flight from her family, identity, and life, sets the scene for another explosion as his protagonist grows close to another young man, Bradwen Jones, who seems inexplicably drawn to her. Bakker’s spare prose gradually builds a sense of urgency beneath this haunting novel’s deceptively placid surface. (Mar.)