An impressive novel, painfully beautiful
Margriet de Moor has proved in her novels and short stories that she can say all she wants with very little. Her sensitive, perceptive, delicate writing and her careful construction carry the reader away slowly but surely and this is more true than ever in her new novel Drowned.
In Margriet de Moor’s universe, living is tantamount to feeling your way, managing, and being preoccupied by things that leave no trace. Shocking events only serve to underline how inevitably an action or lack of action shapes people’s lives, and can, invisibly to others, also unravel them. In face of death, the drowning woman has no thoughts deeper than her regret at no longer being able to try out a recipe for ginger pancakes.
In Drowned, the shock that changes many human lives forever is meteorological: a disastrous flood that the writer bases with documentary precision on the floods that hit the province of Zeeland in 1953. But before the meteorological shock there is a matter of petty human action with great consequences, a dirty trick of fate that causes Lidy to be on the scene of the disaster, instead of her sister Amanda.
Coolly and accurately, De Moor lets fate take its turn, lets the land be flooded, cattle drown, and drowning people in an attic witness a birth. People still converse, but without being able to hear one another over the roar of the wind. De Moor saves the ultimate conversation, the one between the two sisters at the gate to the hereafter, for the end. One sister always wanted to lead her sibling’s life, the other heads agonizingly slowly toward the bottom, surrounded by staring fish. The reader remains behind, trembling.