cover image In a Dark Wood

In a Dark Wood

Marcel Moring, , trans. from the Dutch by Shaun Whiteside. . Harper, $24.99 (449pp) ISBN 978-0-06-621241-8

This flat novel by the esteemed Dutch author Möring (In Babylon ) is occasionally interesting but lacks much memorable material. In a sort of riff on A Christmas Carol , Jacob Noah, a Holocaust survivor turned wealthy Dutch businessman, dies in a 1980 car accident near the town of Assen in the Netherlands. On the same night, the town is home to a massive rave, and this breakneck party forms the backdrop for Noah's peregrinations with the ghostly “Jew of Assen,” who takes dead Noah on a tour of the loved ones he lost contact with during his financial rise. On the same night, celibate intellectual Marcus Kopla has one last chance to win back Noah's daughter, Chaja, and though the fates of the two men don't intersect, they are linked by their love for Chaja. The novel is well conceived, and its free-form prose flows, but the characters don't come across, stripping the book of emotional impact and dramatic suspense. Moreover, the sprawling story's potentially intriguing historical and philosophical implications are never worked to their potential. (Mar.)