Moving portrait of a neglected generation
Esther J. Ending’s debut Na Valentijn (After Valentine) is characterised by her convincing rendering of troubled characters. The narrator is Rain, daughter of an insecure and irresponsible hippie mother, who is a typical example of what Ending describes as the lax and self-centered ‘love generation’. Rain is in her late twenties, a translator and lives with her sex-addict brother, Storm, whose bed she shares occasionally. Her sister Pillow is an alcoholic, her brother Forest smokes too many joints and her twin brother, Ocean, committed suicide eight years earlier.
All children have the same mother, but three different fathers. They have been raised on Ibiza , where they were abused by their mother’s boyfriend, who was addicted to alcohol and coke. After a deliberate, disastrous accident the children return to The Netherlands. There they were housed with host families and in children’s homes but eventually managed, with difficulty, to build a new life in Amsterdam . The actual drama takes place around Valentine’s Day, the day on which Ocean ended his life. Eight years later, Pillow sees him sitting on her sofa. Following this unnerving appearance, Storm and Forest are particularly worried about Rain, who has no more than a vague suspicion of the meaning of this event, and doesn’t see the link between Ocean’s suicide and the day of his reappearance. During the days following this event, Rain goes off the rails: she drinks too much, knocks over glasses in a cafe, and rows with her new boyfriend, whom she wants to hit her.
Ending gradually tightens the noose of oppression. Through subtle hints she makes it clear that there is, indeed, a link between Rain’s behaviour and Ocean’s suicide. After a violent confrontation, Storm and Forest let her in on the terrible secret.
In After Valentijn Ending paints a convincing, moving portrait of a neglected generation which grew up loveless but is capable of more solidarity and feeling than its parents’ generation – which preached love but put very little of it into practice.