Wednesday 14 March 2018

You Have Me To Love by Jaap Robben @JaapRobben @WorldEdBooks #Boekenweek

Mikael lives with his parents on an island somewhere between Scotland and Norway. One day Mikael’s father, Birk, saves him from drowning in the ocean, but is himself thrown against the rocks by a wave and disappears under water. When Birk fails to return to the surface, Mikael is in shock and blocks out the memory of what took place. Unable to tell his mother what happened, together they spend days searching for Birk. When Mikael’s mother realizes that her husband has drowned, the relationship between her and Mikael transforms: she becomes psychotic, forcing Mikael to replace his father in every possible way.

You Have Me To Love by Jaap Robben is published in the UK by World Editions

Every spring the Dutch celebrate Boekenweek (10 – 18 March 2018) – a celebration of books and literary culture. There are dozens of events all over the country and every year a top author is commissioned to write a special festival novella which is given away free from bookshops and libraries.

International fiction publishers World Editions would like to invite you to celebrate Boekenweek in the UK with Jaap Robben, an acclaimed Dutch YA author whose prize-winning first adult novel, You Have Me To Love, is set on an island between Scotland and Norway. Praised widely on publication, the novel tells how, after the mysterious death of his father, a young boy has to navigate the complex relationship with his mother.

'Jaap Robben handles delicate, dangerous material with subtlety and sympathy, but also with a visionary sense of truth that is masterly and unforgettable.’ — Colm Tóibín

Voted Best Book of 2014 in the Netherlands and awarded the prestigious Dutch Bookseller Award 2015.
Shortlisted for the Dioraphte Literature Prize and for the ANV Debut Novel Prize 2015.

  • ‘This is a bold, tender and ambivalent narrative, raw and disturbing, with moments of painful beauty.’—Eileen Battersby, The Irish Times
  • ‘From the very first sentence it is clear how well début novelist Jaap Robben writes. His childishly simple yet highly suggestive sentences make You Have Me to Love as stark and foreboding as the island on which it is set.’ —NRC NEXT
  •  ‘a gripping novel that steadily tightens its hold’ —De Volkskrant
  • ‘beautiful, just beautiful’ —Gerbrand Bakker
  •  ‘Robben lifts you from your life and sweeps you away, with no chance of escaping.’— De Morgen
  • ‘Robben's clear sentences and empathic use of language read like poetry: rhythmic, probing, and sonorous.’ —Dagblad van het Noorden
  • ‘Robben is faultless in his description of a child’s inner world.’—Het Parool

Exclusive Extract

My tongue felt like it was crawling with ants. My feet were heavy. I was standing at the back door in my swimming trunks, towel around my neck. Mum had come into the kitchen, but she hadn’t looked at me yet. ‘There you are,’ she said without raising her head as she lifted the lid off the pot. She ladled my bowl full of soup, then hers.
She dipped a finger into my soup and stirred. ‘Just right. Tuck in.’ I sat down on my chair and stared at the steam rising sluggishly from my bowl. ‘Don’t leave too much for Dad. If he’d wanted a decent helping, he should’ve been back on time.’ Spooning soup into her mouth, she returned to her sewing machine in the living room. ‘Just finishing this off. Won’t be long.’
My hands lay motionless on the table. Inside they were shaking. I could hear the scraping of gulls sharpening their beaks on the gutter above the window. I knew I should be eating my soup, but it was all I could do to take hold of the spoon.
I took a gulp of water from my glass. It felt like I was choking. I gagged and a little of what I sicked up disappeared into my soup. I wiped away what had landed next to the bowl with a furtive sweep of my hand. Mum hadn’t noticed. She was leaning forward in her chair, staring intently at the rattling needle of her sewing machine, only letting up to see if she was still going in a straight line.
After a few minutes, Mum came back into the kitchen to fetch the Worcester sauce from the spice rack. She rested her hips against the sink and leaned toward the window.
‘Taking his own sweet time again.’ My heart wanted to leap out of my chest. I stuck the empty spoon in my mouth. ‘Don’t take after your father,’ she smiled. ‘You can never count on a man like that.’ Before I could answer, the sewing machine had started rattling again.
The harder I bit down on my tongue, the more the ants prickled. Dusk made a mirror of the window. I knew it held my reflection, but I couldn’t bring myself to look. Mum went over to the bin, trod on the pedal, and let a few scraps of material fall from her hand.
‘Aren’t you going to eat anything?’
I gave a jerky shrug.
‘Nothing to say for yourself?’
‘I’ve had enough,’ I said.
‘Well, that wasn’t much.’
‘Don’t come crying like a baby that you want something else later.’
She tipped my soup back into the pot, placed my bowl next to hers by the sink, and left the pot and one bowl on the table for Dad. She caught me looking at them. ‘That father of yours can heat up his own soup.’
When she called him ‘that father of yours’, it meant he’d done something he needed to make up for. She rubbed dark-brown stripes across the table with a damp cloth.
‘He swam away.’ The words stumbled out of my mouth.
‘Dad swam away.’
‘“ Swam away”?’
‘How do you mean?’
She looked at me, puzzled. ‘Where to?’
I shrugged.
‘Didn’t he tell you?’
Again, I shrugged.
‘But you must know if he said something.’
‘I don’t think he said anything.’
She cupped her hands around her eyes and put her face to the window.
‘Did you two have a row?’
She tossed her head as if to shake loose a couple of strange thoughts.
‘That waster does whatever he likes.’
She turned the tap on full, put the plug in the sink, and squirted in some washing-up liquid. I heard the muffled clunk of plates and mugs, the scrape of knives, forks, and spoons. The boiler hummed away in the cupboard below.
At the slightest sound, Mum looked up and turned her head toward the front door, though they were only the noises the house makes. When she was finished, she draped a tea towel over the clean dishes on the draining board.
‘He was underwater.’
‘All of a sudden.’
‘What was all of a sudden?’
I shrugged.
‘Stop shrugging your shoulders every time I ask you a question.’
‘He wanted to climb out of the water after me.’
‘Did you two go swimming?’
‘You knew that wasn’t allowed.’
I shook my head.
‘What happened? Tell me.’
‘I looked round and all of a sudden Dad was swimming underwater.’
‘Underwater? Just like that?’
I tried my best not to shrug, but I couldn’t help myself.
‘He must have said something?’
‘Well, where did he go?’
‘I don’t know that, either.’
‘Dunno, dunno, dunno… Where was he heading?’
‘I couldn’t see.’
‘But you just said he climbed out of the water after you.’
‘What do you mean, “didn’t”?’
‘I didn’t go for a swim.’
Her hand shot out and felt at my swimming trunks. ‘Are you telling me lies?’
My head wouldn’t stop shaking.
‘Where were you?’
‘On the sand.’
‘And that’s where he went swimming?’
I shook my head. ‘Over by the rocks.’
She looked deep into my eyes. Then she rushed into the hall, yanked open the dresser drawer, and took out a torch. She flashed it on and off three times and went outside. By the time the light on the outside wall flickered on, she had disappeared round the side of the house. Quick as I could, I pulled one of Dad’s jumpers from the drying rack and put it on. It was way too big for me. I wormed my feet into my boots and had to run to keep up with her.

Jaap Robben (1984) is a popular Dutch poet, playwright, actor, and children’s author. You Have Me to Love is his first novel.

You Have Me to Love sold over 40,000 copies in the Netherlands. Film rights sold.

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