Sunday 24 April 2016

Roxy by Esther Gerritsen

Roxy is twenty-seven years old when her husband, and his lover, are killed in a car crash.
In a sports car on the hard shoulder, naked.
Roxy is left behind with their daughter, their house, their car, his assistant, the babysitter and the shame of this inglorious end to their marriage.
Her family tries to take care of her, but Roxy is not looking for consolation - she is looking for an enemy. 

Roxy by Esther Gerritsen was published in paperback on 21 April 2016 by World Editions.
Roxy is translated from the Dutch by Michele Hutchison.

Roxy is a short novel, just under 200 pages and easily read in one sitting. This is not a fast-paced or plot-driven story, but is an exploration of the mind of a young woman whose life has been turned upside down by a car crash, and who then goes on to turn her own existence into one big crash.

When Roxy answers the door to two police officers and learns that her husband has been killed in a car accident, her reaction is unexpected, and from this moment on, the reader knows that this is going to be an unusual, quirky and very different sort of book. Roxy is not a lovable character, she's unpredictable, she's unreliable, she's hard to associate with, yet she's also incredibly complex and intriguing and despite the strangeness of both her character, and her story, she's so very compelling.

The death of her much older husband tips Roxy over an edge that it is clear she has been teetering on for a very long time. Details of her background and her marriage slowly emerge as she deals with the aftermath of the fatal accident. Roxy married her husband ten years ago, when she was just seventeen. Her marriage was an opportunity to escape from parents who were flawed and unhappy, and who in turn, made Roxy feel as though she was good for nothing. But Roxy has been successful in the past. She wrote a bestselling novel, she's recognised as the author who wrote that book, but people don't really talk about the follow up novels, and Roxy herself is disparaging and critical when she mentions them herself.

So Roxy decides to take herself and her daughter Louise on a holiday. Louise enjoyed the last holiday they had as a family and maybe they can recreate that time together, despite the fact that the journey home really was the very best part of the break. Accompanied by Liza, the babysitter and Jane, her husband's personal assistant, the holiday begins. Roxy seeks revenge for her life and discovers unsatisfactory sex with unsuitable partners, and a herd of sheep .....

Roxy is a story that is very difficult to describe, or to review. I enjoyed reading it, and the words are beautiful, and honest and at times brutal, but to say too much would spoil things for other readers. Esther Gerritsen writes with style, wit and a sharpness that is eye-wateringly good. Her characters, whilst unsympathetic and very flawed are quite compelling to get to know.

My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

Esther Gerritsen (the Netherlands), originally a playwright, is an established writer who made her literary debut in 2000. In 2014, she was honoured with the triennial Frans Kellendonk Oeuvre Award. Her novel Dorst (published as Craving in English in 2015) was nominated for the prestigious Libris Literature Prize, the Opzij Prize, and the Dioraphte Literary Award. 
Her novel Roxy was also nominated for the Libris Literature Prize and the film rights have been sold to Topkapi Films.
She was chosen to write the 2016 Dutch Book Week Gift - an honour bestowed only on the best Dutch-language writers.
Her specially-written novella will have a print run of over 600,000 copies.

About the translator:   Michele Hutchison (UK) was born on exactly the same day as Esther Gerritsen. She studied at UEA, Cambridge and Lyon universities and worked as an editor for a number of years before becoming a literary translator.
Recent translations include Fortunate Slaves by Tom Lanoye, La Superba by Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer, and Cravings by Esther Gerritsen.
The latter was shortlisted for the 2015 Vondel Prize for Dutch translations into English.
Twitter @M_Hutchison


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