In Amsterdam one stifling hot summer, an eighteen-year-old boy experiences an intense, physical love for his girlfriend, who is two years older: ‘Kaat with her blazing eyes. Kaat who sat on a chair with that concentrated expression as she varnished her nails. ‘Look, isn’t that a cute colour?’ and she’d stick her foot out towards me, wiggling her toes. Who liked kissing you best of all while you were eating ice-cream. “Lovely cold tongue you’ve got now. With flavour to it.” Who always undressed underpants first, wandered around bare-assed for a bit and only then took off her top and her bra.’
Overeem switches smoothly back and forth between past and present; the oppressive heat of the summer forms a contrast to the drab grey veil that hangs over the past. Since the narrator – a rough diamond type like Holden Caulfield – tells his own story, you learn relevant facts but can never be certain how reliable they are. He often mentions his younger brother Krijn, and it quickly emerges that something is the matter with the little boy. But whenever the story becomes more specific the narrator cuts it short, creating a suspense that culminates at the end of the book in a surprising dénouement.
The main character’s childhood is beautifully described. Early in the book we read of his desire to have a brother, a wish that is eventually fulfilled. Then we see on the one hand his disappointment that he cannot take Krijn along with him, that the boy hides, does not seem to want to embrace life, and on the other his abiding desire to help his little brother and take him under his wing. His love for Kaat seems increasingly obsessive. He begins to regard the all too jovial builder he works for as a threat and is furious when his girlfriend stays away all night.
The unexpected happy ending to the novel shows that Overeem has mastered the technique of building a plot in which, with the future expertly foreshadowed, everything falls into place. As a reader you suddenly realize that the real misfit may not be the main character at all but rather his younger brother, and that the ways in which he has dealt with his own longing for a brother and his complicated relationship with his parents are the cause of his restless and anxious behaviour. Overeem is a new Dutch writer to reckon with.