The Bastard Son
Inescapable and moving
The Bastard Son is situated in the second half of the nineteenth century, a time that Uphoff evokes in glorious multicolour. The writer sets the conflict of biological and cultural rights against the background of an aristocratic milieu in decline, with the bastard son of a landowner fighting for the right of the firstborn, pitted against his younger half-brother.
The bastard of Uphoff’s novel is Bastiaan, son of landowner Maurice and conceived on the daughter of the blacksmith who lives in the carriage house on the estate, the estate belongs to Arinde, Maurice’s wife. Later, the couple have a descendant of their own, Thomas. He is angelically beautiful but also a tyrannical child that is spoiled and adored by everybody. Even though Bastiaan is initially refused entry into the mansion, a friendship develops between him and Thomas, although it is overshadowed by future rivalry. Which of them will inherit the stately house and the land? Arinde fights for Thomas’ rights but Maurice thinks him much too frivolous and would rather appoint Bastiaan as his heir. The reader already knows who inherits as at the beginning we see Bastiaan taking care of the – now elderly – Arinde.
Even though the tragic ending comes as no surprise, the pure joy in reading The Bastard Son comes from the carefully proportioned, fateful twists in the story, the subtle characterisation, the descriptions of the aristocratic milieu and the way in which Uphoff gradually shifts relationships.
The Bastard Son has the allure of a classic tragedy, written very poignantly – as inevitable as it is touching. With this book Uphoff more than lives up to her status as one of the most talented Dutch writers.