This Is Not a Diary
Insight into the fury and grief of a difficult, traumatized 16-year-old.
What is the book about?
Erna: This Is Not a Diary is an intense novel about the inner emotional life of 16-year-old Boudewijn, whose mother has thrown herself in front of a train. I tried to make the book hard and raw, but also loving and sometimes humorous. Boudewijn develops as a person: he finally manages to let go of his anger and to feel his grief. The book has a hopeful ending. Although it’s not a self-help book, I think that many young people and adults may gain something from it. I hope it offers comfort.
How were you able to write about such a difficult subject with such insight and empathy?
My father was chronically depressed and often talked about suicide. So that threat was present in our house. When my brother was young he had serious depression too, which lasted over a year. Later I experienced at close hand how disastrous the consequences of suicide can be for those who are left behind.
Is that what you want this book to show?
In part. I’m mainly interested in grief. Boudewijn goes through a delayed grieving process. As a survival tactic, he froze all of his emotions when his mother committed suicide. But now he’s stuck. He’s even pushed his girlfriend away because he doesn’t dare to start an intimate relationship with her. His mother is standing in his way, because of his anger about her abandoning him and his grief that she’ll never be there again. Boudewijn’s dad tells him to start a diary. Writing allows him to put his grief into words and he slowly climbs out of his valley of despair. I truly believe that’s how it works; writing really can get you back on your feet.