Wachter op de morgen
A poignant monologue about family ties and learning to set the ones you love free
We only hear one voice in Waiting for Morning, Machteld Siegmann’s second novel: that of a 72-year-old man. During a sleepless night right before Christmas he tells his life story to his granddaughter’s downstairs neighbour while waiting for her to go into labour. It’s a story that will hold the reader spellbound for more than two hundred pages.
A strange combination of circumstances has brought Tak back into his granddaughter Aria’s life. They have gone years without seeing each other, because Tak has been embroiled in a conflict with his daughter. But after a truck plows into his living room and leaves his house temporarily uninhabitable, Aria lets him stay at her place. Now the baby she intends to have at home is almost due and Tak has gone downstairs to Filip’s to get out of the way. As Filip decorates his Christmas tree, Tak tells him his life story.
His lucid monologue brings to life a string of events set largely against a typically Dutch backdrop: a place filled with water, dikes and wind, with religion permeating everyday life – an atmosphere reminiscent of the work of Marieke Lucas Rijneveld. Tak grows up in the lean years leading up to the Second World War in a family with a loving mother, who believes she can heal the sick through prayer, and an absent father. During the war, Tak is put to work as a forced labourer in Germany, an underexplored chapter in Dutch wartime history which Siegmann brings to light with empathy and restraint.
Once he is back in the Netherlands, he becomes a carpenter and marries Chrissie, the love of his life. They have a little girl but Tak’s strict, old-fashioned approach to parenting ends up clashing with his daughter’s free spirit and results in a painful rift between them. And then there’s Ide, the mentally disabled girl who lives in the same town. He believes himself to be her father which, though he manages to forge a bond with her, ultimately turns out to be untrue.
Tak’s story is both personal and universal: it’s about love, family ties and being able to set someone free, and it’s about faith and forgiveness as his reunion with Aria and the arrival of new life give Tak hope of reconciling with his daughter. This makes Waiting for Morning a keenly observed, thought-provoking and moving novel.