Dorrestein's first novel to be translated into English is a riveting psychological thriller that rates comparison with Shirley Jackson's classic, We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Like Jackson, Dorrestein excels at describing how an eccentric familyDin this case, the van Bemmels of The HagueDis tormented and finally destroyed by the growing madness of one of its members. Frits van Bemmel and his wife, Margje, have four children and a large house, in which they also run a news-clipping service. Their existence seems idyllic, until a fifth child, Ida, is born, and Margje begins acting strangely. She talks back to a divine figure, who urges her to attack her children. Ida suffers from mysterious, recurrent injuries, and the children's father refuses to see the obvious. Narrator Ellen, the third child, is a sharp, book-smart 13-year-old, who realizes something is wrong, but can do nothing but fly into hysterical rages. Twenty-five years later, Ellen finds herself back in her childhood home, alone, separated from her husband and expecting a baby. Huddled in the basement, she pages through a family picture album and forces herself to think back on the inexorable, mad decline of the household and the day when ""life blew up in our faces like a time bomb."" Dorrestein's exquisitely calibrated narrative becomes mesmerizing as Ellen struggles to comprehend how one day her whole family could just be wiped out and how she could have survived. (Jan.) Forecast: Several years ago, another unorthodox Dutch thriller was made into the well-received film The Vanishing; A Heart of Stone is a natural for Hollywood's attention, too. In any case, the book, a BOMC alternate, should win DorresteinDwho will embark on a six-city author tour hereDname recognition in the English-speaking world.
Reviewed on: 01/01/2001 Release date: 01/01/2001 Genre: Fiction