Het kleine huis bij de rivier
Noort tells a life lesson with great ease and original images
Yussuf’s family live next door to one another in a number of houses by the river. His tough grandma is the centre of the family, along with her brother, who is mainly interested in his pigeons, and her son and daughter, each with a partner and child. They all get along well, and life is calm and peaceful in the shade of a pear tree.
Yussuf’s mother was pregnant with him when she fled Syria. In the shelter, she fell in love with a handyman, who became Yussuf’s dad. Yussuf and his cousin Amber love being in the countryside. They swim in the river, go for bike rides and accidentally dig up the skeleton of a dog. Life seems to be without a care – until the accident, which is already revealed on the first page.
A lorry crashes into Yussuf’s bedroom. He is seriously injured, and the house is no longer fit for them to live in. This triggers bad memories of the war for Yussuf’s mother, now that her house has been destroyed once again. It is a literal and figurative blow that has a huge impact on the family. Amber says she always hoped that nothing would ever change. Grandpa Roekoe understands exactly what she means. That’s what he used to think too. ‘But,’ he says, ‘nothing stays unchanged.’ What is most important, in his opinion, is that they all stay together. Their tranquil and stable life in the little houses by the river has been disrupted, but that, too, is something that can change.
The Little House by the River is a story that is told calmly and peacefully, in a warm and nostalgic countryside setting, while at the same time touching upon important topical issues, such as war and security. The city, which is advancing into the countryside and leading to compulsory purchases and relocation, also plays a role.
But this book is mainly about the impact of change and the resilience of people. Noort shows with extreme precision how a life can be thrown off course, but how that can also mean a new beginning. With her dazzling dialogue and inner monologues, she lays bare the inner thoughts of these children.