The Detour

The Detour

The Detour

Gerbrand Bakker

'I found the novel thoroughly engrossing. I read it with complete trust. I sank into the wife's gloom and the husband's despair and confusion. And I found myself floating on currents brilliantly constructed by its author. It's a wonderful novel. Wise and generous to a fault of all our human failings and frailties. The book remains on my list of reading highlights for the year.' - Lloyd Jones (author of Mister Pip, shortlist Booker Prize)

‘Like other recent novels, such as Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee and Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson, Ten White Geese has the laconic texture and angular plotting of a thriller, with shifting points of view that keep the reader guessing about what surprise is lurking around the corner.’ – The New York Review of Books


Amsterdam. A woman disappears. Her husband is questioned by an understanding police officer who also seeks help from her parents. The woman, a teacher specializing in the poems of Emily Dickinson, has rented an old house, far away in Wales, in order to make a fresh start. She wants to forget things; she’s on the run from painful situations and bad news.

November turns into December. A blunt sheep farmer slaughters a lamb; a general practitioner is smoking himself to death in his empty practice; the woman gets a haircut at the local hairdresser. On the field near the house there are ten white geese, but two months later only four remain. And what to do with the friendly but elusive young man that jumps over her garden fence one foggy afternoon?

On the day before Christmas, the husband and police officer take the ferry to Hull. They are getting closer and time is running out.

Gerbrand Bakker tells the story of a woman trying to escape the circumstances that have become unbearable. It is the universal story which has to be told in every era, that of a woman who wants to start again – if only she has the chance.

The Detour was selected for the 10 Best Books list for the Spring of 2011 by the Foundation for the Production and Translation of Dutch Literature (NLPVF).

'When Gerbrand Bakker's first book, The Twin, won the IMPAC Award, it was clear that an assured and mature new voice had emerged in European fiction. Yet, as accomplished a work as The Twin was, its successor is even more powerful.' – The Guardian

'And there is something almost thrillingly fresh about the way Bakker has approached writing this. It bears his indelible poetic stamp, his incisor cut, but is somehow entirely different in style to The Twin in its pace, its energy, its characters.' – Irish Independen

'The particular strength is in the plot, which springs some late revelations and surprises, and will almost certainly keep you rooted to your chair until the dénouement.' – The Spectator

'Like its predecessor, The Detour is written and translated with lapidary precision, perspective and crisp prose; there is emotion and expression, but held back from the writing, which is controlled and full of clean, physical detail, simple and devastating.' – The Independent

'Gerbrand Bakker ist ein geradezu diabolisch guter Erzähler. Bakkers zwei vorangegangene Romane waren bemerkenswertig gut, Der Umweg ist nun sein bislang bester.' – Süddeutsche Zeitung

'Tranquility and tension generate a quiet triumph. As with The Twin this is a still, meditative work that gathers force almost imperceptibly. The tone is elegiac, wistful and angry, pulsing beneath innocuous sentences about chicken-wire and wheelbarrows with an anguish that neither the narrator nor the character will ever allow to be fully expressed. In is indirection lies its triumph.' - Sunday Business

'Mit Der Umweg bleibt Gerbrand Bakker also auf seinem einmal einge-schlagenen Weg. fernab von aktuellen Moden und dem Zeitgeist erzählt er mit einer ebenso unaufdringlichen Sympathie wie subtilen Ironie die oft schon erzählte Geschichte vom Ende des Landlebens ein weiteres Mal.' – Die Zeit

'A final note of appreciation must go to the book's translator, David Colmer. When turning one of Dickinson's poems into Dutch, Emilie decides to shift the meaning of a line in order to mimic the original's style, believing 'rhythm is most important here'. Colmer appears to work by this maxim, miraculously retaining Bakker's unique style and sensibility, in the process helping to confirm Bakker as a leading light of new European fiction.' – Wales Arts Review

'There’s a sense of honesty that shines through, no bulking out or lengthy passages to clog each scene, just simplicity in the telling of this tale. I want to know how the characters develop; I can feel seasons as they change, the moods that swing, the feelings that cause pain and memory.' – Raven Books

'The Detour is a quiet and austere novel in many respects, but nonetheless effects the same kind of emotional force reminiscent of the work of J.M. Coetzee. This is a wistful, elegiac and surprisingly angry read, pulsing beneath well wrought sentences with a restrained anguish.' - Daily Business Post

'Emilie remains satisfyingly enigmatic, consistently managing her secrets in a way that leads to a memorably surreal final image. In the evolution of her character, and in the ways in which she interacts with the world, Bakker establishes a steadily mounting tension via an unlikely reworking of quotidian moments. It’s in those strange, haunting glimpses of a disrupted life that this novel truly finds its voice.' - Star Tribune

'Ten White Geese is bleak and lovely in equal measure. Bakker - who won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for his first novel, The Twin - also captures the gorgeous desolation of the natural world as few contemporary writers can. And he makes Agnes a compelling enigma until the last page, sharing just enough of her anguish, but not too much. This is a tragic story, yet it is also one of the most beautifully written novels in recent memory.' - Newsday

‘Gerbrand Bakker has a style that is tenebrous and cool. The text is pocketed with meaning and subtly menacing.’ – The New Yorker

Rights sold to

  • Australia (Scribe)
  • Brazil (Radio Londres)
  • China (Shanghai 99)
  • Croatia (Fraktura)
  • Denmark (Gyldendal)
  • Ethiopia (HoHe)
  • France (Gallimard)
  • Germany (Suhrkamp)
  • Italy (Einaudi)
  • Lebanon (All Prints)
  • Macedonia (Antolog)
  • Norway (Bokvennen)
  • Spain (Rayo Verde)
  • Sweden (Nilsson Agency)
  • Turkey (Metis Kitap)
  • United Kingdom (Harvill Secker)
  • United States (Penguin)
  • filmrights (N279 Entertainment)
  • Albanian (Ombra)