The Twin
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The Twin

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3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  1,368 ratings  ·  206 reviews
When his twin brother dies in a car accident, Helmer is obliged to return to the small family farm. He resigns himself to taking over his brother's role and spending the rest of his days 'with his head under a cow'.

After his old, worn-out father has been transferred upstairs, Helmer sets about furnishing the rest of the house according to his own minimal preferences. 'A do...more
ebook, 288 pages
Published September 4th 2008 by Vintage Digital (first published 2006)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,666)
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Jason Edwards
Just finished The Twin, literally minutes ago, and want to get my thoughts down as quickly as possible. Not because I’m so very excited. It’s just that I know I have a problem doing a proper review after a few days have passed, and the truth is I don’t even know what I think of this book right now. Maybe I should let it marinate, but just in case, here goes.

The original title in Dutch is Boven Is Het Stil, which translates roughly to "Above Is Quiet." I would have liked to have known that, as th...more
Brian
I'm always flattered when an author doesn't interpret her/his work for me, doesn't tell me how to feel or even what his characters might be feeling. I was taught to "show not tell" in fiction. Maybe that's why right from the start Bakker's The Twin had me "watching" it (directed by Ingmar Bergman, I think) in black and white perched on the edge of my chair. This was a two day marathon. And in the end I was awarded a quiet day of contemplation about what had happened and why, its reality and its...more
Amy


“Everything is different when you have a coffin in your living room”



These are the kinds of sentences that fill The Twin: subtle, understated and crackling. This beautifully written novel shines with its character depiction of Helmer, a man who has made no choices in his life other than selecting the chickens for the farm. His home, the larger farm animals, his furniture and even his work clothes were passed on: choices that belonged to others.

However, the impending death of his father leads him...more
Emily
Back in September, I suggested Gerbrand Bakker's 2006 novel The Twin (translated by David Colmer) as an unconventional but relevant choice for the Gothic and mystery-themed RIP Challenge V. Having now actually read The Twin, I'm pleased to say not only that I enjoyed it quite a lot, but also that I can firmly stand by my odd categorization. There are other ways to read The Twin—as a pastoral novel, or a piece of quiet psychological realism—but I thought it might be fun to spend my post reading B...more
Monica
I’ve just finished reading this book and should perhaps wait a day or two to write my review so that maybe my gushing and cooing about how wonderful this book is will wear off a bit. But I doubt that I’ll feel different about this book tomorrow or ten years from now. Amazing...perfect...brilliant. Leaves me utterly speechless. For me...this is what fiction is all about.

To say so much with such simplicity.

To so aptly and accurately capture the essence of a place I have never been but will recogni...more
Stephen
Definitely not a book for all tastes--but it surely was for mine. I read "The Twin" because a website I browse occasionally ranked it as one of the top five international novels of last year, and I'm glad I did. The style is simple, even flat, and the Dutch countryside portrayed here is bleak. The story is told my Helmer, a man in his mid-fifties, whose identical twin, Henk, died almost forty years before. Helmer still lives in the shadow of Henk and feels himself to be only half a person. He re...more
Clare
Ooo, I loved this book, but it's difficult to pin down just why. It reminds me of those fabulously arty films with long shots of a solitary person tending cattle on a farm in a bleak landscape, complete silence except for the constant moan of the wind, the odd cattle call and the cry of a bird.

But...

As the camera closes in, the muck and hard work become clear, and we see the father dying in the bedroom upstairs, surrounded by pictures of mushrooms and sheep and dead relatives.

Helmer... I half lo...more
Dagný
The book is strange and quite beautiful, both in the way it is written and in the scenes it conjures. It is suffused with the stillness of the watery Dutch landscape it depicts. As with the birdlife's apparitions so with the humans, it is all somehow unique yet true to an eternal nature. In its spareness, in the present tense descriptions of mundane activities and exchanges the narrative is also full; it rests in itself and breathes with nature -until it kicks with nature. It is clear and terse...more
Lisa
Feb 27, 2011 Lisa rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lisa by: ANZ LitLovers Yahoo book group
The Twin, by Gerbrand Bakker, is entitled Là-haut, Tout est Calme in France and Oben ist es Still in Germany. Translating these gives a different and more interesting slant to the story immediately: Yonder/Over There, All is Calm in French; and, more intriguing in German, it translates as On the Surface All is Still, but Oben also means ‘upstairs’; ‘above’; ‘overhead’ and even ‘up north’ – all of which have resonance in the novel. Discovering this, I wondered whether there are also these multipl...more
GoldGato
A lifelong bachelor farmer deals with sudden changes in his life, and it becomes quickly obvious he is not a man who would be called a change agent. Bitter but patient, the protagonist in this story lives his life amid the vagaries of Dutch weather, always yearning to see Denmark, symbol of his need for breaking the bonds of a life he never wanted.

Drizzle isn't much more than mist with delusions of grandeur...

Spare. Modest. Melancholy. Affirming. Clear. Concise. This is a book that made me frequ...more
Adam
The loneliness and the wide-open interior spaces of a life half lived--such is the thematic backdrop of this melancholy but engrossing Dutch novel about a farmer who has survived the death of his twin brother only eventually to realize (decades after receiving this fundamental blow to his identity) that life does still hold something for him, something uncanny and new. By the book’s end Gerbrand Bakker’s protagonist has acquired, for us, some of the features of a great friend: both intense famil...more
Judith
My good friend, Dagny recommended this book to me and she was right on. It's a quiet little story about the twin who survives when his brother dies of a car accident at the age of 18. The survivor was studying at university, while his brother was taking over the family business of running the sheep farm. So Helmer comes home and becomes the substitute son, living in misery with his sadistic father and his long-suffering mother. The story is set in Holland and the farm is just what you'd imagine...more
Minnie
This is my preliminary review. i will be discussing this book in our book club so I still have some in-depth studying to do.
I must say I prefer the Afrikaans translation of the Dutch title, "Boven is het Still" to "Bo is dit stil". Calling it The Twin I believe misplaces the emphasis. i do not believe this novel is about being a twin, rather it is about a world beneath the deceptively simple life Helmer leads. His farm is out of the way, yet it is the space in which a bitter existence between a...more
Inge
Ik had zin om dit boek – één van de mooiste romans van het afgelopen decennium – te herlezen. De sfeerbeschrijvingen van het platteland en de Hollandse stijl (ietwat karig taalgebruik en geen vals sentiment) komen zó goed tot hun recht in dit boek. Het verhaal is ontroerend mooi. Het leven van de atypische boer Helmer wordt bepaald door keuzes van anderen. Maar hij neemt het heft in eigen handen: hij doet zijn vader ‘naar boven’. Helmers leven stond altijd in het teken van de ander. Pas als hij...more
Cheryl
A spare quiet story of an ordinary man, a farmer who feels he was put into his way of life by external circumstances that he no control over. His twin brother died when they were young men, so he ended up taking over the family farm, although he had planned to become educated at a university, and had only recently started his studies. Now it is 35 years later. His father is dying and lives, neglected, in the same house with only his son for company, who seems to hate him in a quiet sort of benig...more
Annarosepenny
My first "book club" experience: the member who suggested this read is moving to Holland in a couple weeks. We met at Pegasus Pizza on campus, I drank a beer with my breadsticks, and reveled in the idea that the four people at the table had just read the same dull, terse book. Father's dying. There is a hooded crow in the ash tree. Since my twin died, I'm half a person. My twin's old girlfriend sends her son to be my farmhand. There are homo-erotic undertones. My life has stood still with the mi...more
Jim Coughenour
I'd never heard of the Dutch writer Gerbrand Bakker until I read Tim Parks' review in the recent New York Review of Books – which was mostly about Per Petterson. I definitely appreciated Petterson's Out Stealing Horses but I think I enjoyed The Twin even more. It's also quite melancholy – but Bakker's novel has warmth Petterson's books do not. Aging, solitude, love: large themes handled here with delicacy and compelling understatement.

(By the way, I'd skip Parks' review until you've read the boo...more
Iwokeinrelief
I’ve put Father upstairs.
Truthfully, it’s not the most memorable of opening lines, but it’s actually quite effective. In one sentence you’ve met your narrator, and gotten a fairly accurate representation of his narrative style and his relationship with his Father. This book is blunt honed simplicity simmering in unwanted obligation and barely submerged animosity. It is quite good.

At its most simple, this is a book about Helmer – our taciturn narrator – and his dying father. They are the last of...more
Jerry Delaney
Another quiet, simple story that is concerned with character, not action. And I loved it. It is set on a small farm in the Netherlands. Helmer is not interested in farming and goes to a university in Amsterdam while his twin (Henk) stays to work the farm with his dad. Henk likes farming and has no interest in going anywhere else.But when Henk is killed in an accident, Helmer must come home and help his father and give up his dreams of the university. The story starts 30 years after these events...more
Bonnie
Unlike his twin brother Henk, Helmer Wunderer could never seem to measure up in the eyes of his father. So when his brother meets and falls for a local girl, he turns to the hired hand, that his father has recently fired, for friendship and comfort and to assuage his overwhelming loneliness. Then tragedy strikes the family and Helmer’s education at the university in Amsterdam is cut short as he is forced to help run the farm. Fifty years later, the story opens with Helmer carrying his elderly, i...more
Max
Dit boek liet me verward achter - ik had zoveel vragen die niet beantwoord waren. Was hij homo? Bestond Henk (de nieuwe hulp) wel echt? Wat was de echte betekenis van Denemarken, en waarom wilde hij ineens daarheen?

Het verhaal kabbelt langzaam voort op de rustige golven in Helmer's hoofd. De golven bewegen zich echter in vreemde richtingen. Het verleden: als tweeling, de dood van zn broer, de gedwongen terugkeer naar de boerderij, de frustratie, het alleen zijn tussen anderen. Zijn wens dat zijn...more
Veronica
A review of The Twin I stumbled upon was intriguing enough that I jotted down the title and eventually added it to my 2nd list of 100 Books to read.

It was refreshing to find a contemporary writer who doesn’t pale among the revered early 20th century writers. The next time I hear someone claim there are no good writers anymore, I’ll throw Bakker’s name their way.

A Dutch farmer living with his elderly father reflects on the life he was dealt after his twin brother dies unexpectedly at age 20. Gruf...more
Maria
"No sabremos más del pasado de este hombre que lo que él mismo quiera recordar, conforme vaya dejando transcurrir sus horas, en su granja, cerca de sus fotografías, siendo ocasionalmente visitado y pocas, muy pocas veces sintiéndose realmente acompañado.

Pese a las dificultades que uno encontrará con esta historia si se propone recomponer la estela vital de su protagonista, esas dudas se verán recompensadas una vez llegado al punto final, cuando se reconozca que "eso", todo eso que a uno le intri...more
Linda
Chosen for discussion at a book group. It is slow, plodding character study set in Netherlands, translated from the Dutch. The twin is left to run the farm when his brother dies..resents it and his aging father for all the years he missed out on his own dream. Discussion may be interesting next month.
Fionnuala
This is a beautiful book, a sort of modern elegy written in a country farmyard. Not a lot of plot but tons of emotion floating about even if the characters have some difficulty voicing their feelings at times.
Charles
What a captivating book this is, and how subtly it describes the arc of a life, superficially without incident, yet rich with unexpressed emotions and desires. The premise is simple, a twin left to deal with the loss of his brother on a small Dutch farm, but the issues touched - desire, frustration, anger and what to do with it, renewal, resentment, loss, love above all in the light of these - and the context in which the events take place, a life of routine and domesticity lit up by flashes of...more
Mirna
Boring and depressive. Not my type of world :)))
Mark Gromko
Helmer von Wonderen is the surviving twin; his brother Henk was forced off the road and drowned in a roadside ditch at 18, Henk’s girlfriend Riet unable to free him from the submerged car. His father had favored the younger (by minutes) Henk, but with Henk’s death, the farm and the farming life were thrust upon Helmer by his father. The father drives Riet away; Helmer’s mother dies shortly after. We meet Helmer when he is 55 years old; his father is in decline and unable to walk.

Helmer’s life,...more
Garry
Helmer is a twin... was a twin... is the surviving half.

As a young man, Helmer had left his family's farm in the Dutch countryside to study literature in Amsterdam. His brother had stayed behind, following in his father's footsteps, engaged to a woman that never had the chance to become his wife. When his brother died suddenly all those years ago, Helmer returns and is compelled to leave his own dreams behind and take over from his brother at the farm.

We meet Helmer when he is in his mid-50's....more
JJ Marsh
What should have been. Helmer and Henk. The twins. But Henk has been dead for thrity years, Helmer is alone and their father is bedridden and dying upstairs. Helmer is alive, he’s in control of everything – the farm, the house, his father – everything except his life. Then Riet, Henk’s ex-fianceé, asks if her son might stay awhile.

The prose, translated from the Dutch by David Colmer, is precise and sparse, reminding me of Ishiguro. It’s apt, reflecting a novel of frustrations and could-have-been...more
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reading 1 7 Jan 09, 2014 09:15AM  
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.
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