cover image The Days of Bluegrass Love

The Days of Bluegrass Love

Edward van de Vendel, trans. from the Dutch by Emma Rault. Levine Querido, $18.99 (208p) ISBN 978-1-64614-046-6

Originally published in 1999, Dutch author Van de Vendel crafts a sensitive portrayal of sexual awakening and queer first love set in Knoxville, Tenn. in this earnest novel, originally published in 1999. When Dutch Tycho Zeling meets Norwegian Oliver Kjelsberg, both 18, on their way to be counselors at an international summer camp, the two become inseparable. During a swimming excursion, Tycho considers that he might be gay, citing his blossoming crush on Oliver, despite never having had feelings for boys prior. With a fellow counselor’s encouragement, Tycho and Oliver giddily launch a tender relationship. After a camp leader warns them to be less obvious with their affections, Oliver convinces Tycho to sneak out, which leads to their employment termination. Instead of returning to Amsterdam, Tycho follows Oliver to Norway, but Oliver’s sudden emotional distance causes their relationship to falter. Their opposing internal journeys, including Oliver’s straightforward interpretation of his own queerness (“I’m just Oliver.... And Tycho Zeling from the Netherlands is the person I want to be with”) and Tycho’s earnest questioning, are thoughtfully examined. Van de Vendel’s compact, deeply introspective tale follows a sedate pace, and the narrative’s subdued approach to conflict allows the boys’ tentative identity exploration to flourish sans traumatic upheaval. Ages 12–up. (May)