The Curse of Cornelia
A serious yet light-hearted story
Staf gives us a first-person account of the bewildering year he was forced to spend in an old house in a fashionable neighbourhood near the Hague. The move is necessitated by his father’s new work. Mother gives up her job and throws herself into the renovation and embellishment of the house. From the very first day, it is clear to Staf that their new home will bring them no luck.
Despite the grown-ups’ passionate interest in old tiles, stained glass windows, and creaking parquet floors, the whole project makes Staf feel like he’s living underwater. A girlfriend of his is involved in a mysterious accident, and his parents’ behaviour suggests that their marriage is none too stable.
A bit of investigation in the neighbourhood and a trip to the library convince Staf that there is a curse on the house, which bears the name Cornelia. In any case, none of the previous residents lasted long. Then torrential rains cause a leak that cannot not be stopped, and ultimately the whole family is washed away in the direction of a respectable but dull flat. To Staf’s unutterable relief: the catastrophe has been averted! The weight of responsibility which he shouldered for the well-being of his family has been lifted.
Once again Martha Heesen has sketched a portrait of an introverted boy on the verge of puberty. She does so lovingly, with compassion, and with an eye for the humorous aspects of a situation. Her style is highly evocative, especially when she is writing about things which are deathly real to Staf, but which for his parents simply do not exist. She succeeds in creating a credible narrator and main character who honestly believes that everyone around him is changing, even though the reader knows that it is Staf himself who is beginning to see the world differently, as a result of his age and his hormones. Here is someone who has one foot in the magical world of childhood and worries about the welfare of his guinea pigs, but has to face up to the perplexing and changing realities around him. The author describes that process in precise and measured sentences, forging a serious yet light-hearted story, one which retains its fascination to the very end.