Best wishes for 2015 everyone!
In the past year I was happy to read some wonderful, inspiring, surprising, playful, entertaining, fascinating and otherwise exciting books. Let's have a look at them.

In 2014 I continued my discoveries of the year before by reading new books by Patrick Leigh Fermor and Valeria Luiselli. I followed Leigh Fermor's journey on foot through Europe with the second book of his travels and continued my fascination with Luiselli through her novel De gewichtlozen.
Frank Westerman has become a steady name on my reading lists these last years. Stikvallei is already the 4th book I've read by him and he hasn't disappointed me so far.
Further, I finally found the mojo to pick up Truman Capote's In cold blood. It took my quite a few years to do so, but I'm glad I did. A great classic and it set me on track to discover another classic, To kill a mockingbird. That one I enjoyed even more.
New discoveries in 2014 were Anna Seghers, Kate Atkinson, Sten Nadolny and Olivia Manning. Anna Seghers made such an impression with Het zevende kruis that I'm now reading her second masterpiece, Transit. More on that one soon.
Kate Atkinson really was a delight. Such a catchy good read and deep at the same time, perfect!
Sten Nadolny's De ontdekking van het langzame leven was a gift we all received from our boss. A delightful historical novel - written in the 1980's and recently translated into Dutch - about a man who is slower than most, but manages to get quite far in life. He becomes a successful captain in the navy and even leads expeditions to discover a way through the northern ice sea. Inspiring stuff.
My last big reading project of the year was The Balkan Trilogy by Olivia Manning. More than a thousand pages of highly detailed descriptions of Manning's stay in Romania and Greece during the Second World War. I admit to cursing this book on a number of times, but ultimately I loved to read it all. Perhaps I'll try the follow up The Levant Trilogy this year.

These are all ten of my favourites in 2014 - the order I've read them in:

Anna Seghers Het zevende kruis
Patrick Leigh Fermor
Between the woods and the water
Truman Capote In cold blood
Valeria Luiselli De gewichtlozen
Frank Westerman
Stikvallei
Kate Atkinson
Life after life
Sten Nadolny
De ontdekking van het langzame leven
Harper Lee
To kill a mockingbird
Olivia Manning
The Balkan Trilogy

In 2014 I published 33 reviews on Jacob de Zoet. Seven books read this year have remained unreviewed so far. I hope to catch up on some of them soon. At the very least Jaap Scholten's latest book Horizon City deserves a review. I quite liked it.

What else?
I started to read in German! I'm quite proud of this I have to say. I could already keep up a steady conversation in German, but I'd never read more than a few pages in a book. It feels very nice to discover a language in this way, just like I used to try my hand at English books for the first time many years ago.
I've read two German books in 2014 and I'm currently half way through a third one (Tschick). Another, with the delightful title Die Entdeckung der Currywurst, I picked up in Berlin last summer
. I hope to read that one sometime soon.

I had three interviews with authors in 2014, a new feature on Jacob de Zoet. My aim was to do a small Paris Review type of interview, to see who influences them, what books they enjoy reading and how they write. I plan to do more author interviews, so if you have any names to suggest or connections to make please let me know! Ideally they´re young, relatively unknown and nice to talk to...

I wish all of you a great reading year in 2015, with lots of books and hopefully some good ones too! As always do let me know if you have anything special to recommend me. Something old I've never heard of, a young author you're enthusiastic about or your all time favourite book which you couldn't find on this website. I look forward to reading them!

6 January 2015




















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In 1959 Truman Capote read a small article in the back of The New York Times about a gruesome murder in the state of Kansas. A wealthy farmer, his wife and two children had been found dead in their home, the victims of a carefully planned crime. Capote realized he had found a real topic to write about. Over the next years he would immerse himself in this remote area, speak to locals, the investigators involved in the case, but also to the two killers. All this research would eventually become In cold blood, a non-fiction novel that soon gained classic status. Here was a book you could read and enjoy as a novel, but that dealt with facts; the true crime genre was born (see for a recent example The suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale).

We slowly get to know the murdered family, the scene of the crime as it was first found, the many theories and uncertainties that rise within the community, the difficulty of the investigators to come upon any leads, the whereabouts and eventual discovery of the killers, their trial, followed by a long imprisonment impending their death sentence and, ultimately, their death at the gallows. It is fascinating how Capote lures you in. Everybody knows the facts, everybody knows the outcome and yet you want to know exactly how it went. Who are these two young men? What led them to this sudden burst of violence? How did they ride free for so many weeks and how were they caught?

The two killers, Dick Hickock and Perry Smith, are the real main characters of this book. Capote must have been immensely intrigued by them and devoted a lot of time to sketching their characters. With success, because awkwardly enough you get to feel you know them. Their deaths are a sad ending to the story. That is the surprising strength of In cold blood and entirely the achievement of Capote. He brought a true story to life, not by placing himself in the centre, but by letting the characters speak for themselves.
Now I can finally see that long-anticipated movie Capote, with Philip Seymour Hoffman as the struggling author.

11 April 2014

Penguin Classics, 2000
Originally published 1966
336 pages




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