Josje (Josie) lives in a port town together with a number of friendly animals of whom Cousin Donkey is her favourite. Her marriage with the soldier she has fallen in love with turns into a big party. But on the wedding night she has a nightmare: her soldier is picked up by ‘the Tar Men’ to go to war. He doesn’t return. Josie’s sorrow is great: ‘every word hurts’. She stuffs her sorrow into a big wardrobe, and that of the animals too: ‘Ironed flat, the little sorrow fitted onto the shelves in neat piles’ and the big sorrow hung ‘like heavy winter overcoats on the wardrobe’s hangers.’ At first it’s fine, that the sorrow is packed away, but afterwards they realize that you cannot be happy without sorrow, that it’s part of life. At the end of the book Josie wakes up in her sweetheart’s arms.
Despite its heavy themes Josie’s Dream is not a heavy book. It is prose but has the feel of a ballad about sorrow and consolation, and can be interpreted in different ways. It is written in clear language, poetic and melancholic but also sober and witty.
By Lieke van Duin