Looking into the Sun
A little gem
Anne Provoost’s new novel, In de zon kijken (Looking into the Sun), is set on a ranch in Australia, home of eight-year-old Chloe Vanderweert, her father, mother and half-sister. Father Greg has set his heart on the production of lemon gin, which he wants his brother Brendan to distribute. In Chapter One, however, Greg falls off his horse, is paralysed and, soon after, dies leaving Chloe behind with her mother Linda, who is slowly going blind.
Before falling ill, her mother was a photographer, and she now tries to battle her increasing blindness with photographs. Chloe’s older half-sister can no longer stand the camera and the one seeing, critical eye her mother has left. ‘Without your realising it, she fastens [the eye] on to you and it sticks to you like a burr wherever you go.’ The girl flees to her father in the city. Provoost unfolds the sadness of those left behind on the ranch - linearly, but in fragments, as a child experiences and remembers.
The story is told from the point of view of young Chloe, who is alert and perceptive about their lives, often observing events with wonder, hinting at factual meaning and emotion. For instance, Chloe barely understands her mother’s misery and fear, or that the helpful couple from nearby attempt to make her mother realise that, because of her condition, she needs to reorganise her life. The structure of the story contributes to the evocative atmosphere. Greg’s visit to his brother Brendan, which Chloe relates only late in the novel, puts a different perspective on events, starting with Greg’s death. Overshadowed by a vague threat, the backdrop to the desperate mother’s and naïve daughter’s attempts to better understand each other is created by vivid descriptions of their surroundings, the climate, their way of life and other characters - often intriguingly unfathomable themselves. In de zon kijken leaves a profound impression.