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The Light of Amsterdam

3.25  ·  Rating details ·  694 ratings  ·  123 reviews
It is December in Belfast, Christmas is approaching and three sets of people are about to make their way to Amsterdam.

Alan, a university art teacher stands watching the grey sky blacken waiting for George Best's funeral cortege to pass. He will go to Amsterdam to see Bob Dylan in concert but also in the aftermath of his divorce, in the hope that the city which once welcome
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published April 2012 by Bloomsbury (first published March 1st 2012)
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Average rating 3.25  · 
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 ·  694 ratings  ·  123 reviews

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Canadian Reader
”she was . . . afraid that if she spoke her voice would betray her nervousness, the sensation of everything falling away.”

“this journey was a requiem. Like so many other things that he had held on to too long, he would let it go and try to step into the future, if not with enthusiasm then with less of his instinctive reluctance and fear.”

“nothing . . . could ever be gauged or bound in a fixity of time. . . . something was always hidden, always camouflaged so that the centre couldn’t be fully kno
Michael Harling
May 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Here is the entire plot of the book:


Angst Angst Angst Angst Angst Angst Angst Angst Angst Angst Angst Angst Angst Angst Angst Angst Angst Angst Angst Angst Angst Angst BIG Angst More Angst Angst Angst muddled ending


That said, it was, for the first two thirds of the book, a compelling read. The prose is beautiful, almost poetic, the characters, though living breathing clichés are, at least, living and breathing, and the situation—also familiar—are portrayed with
The book is set in Amsterdam just before Christmas. For me, the part of the book leading up to the various characters preparing to go to Amsterdam was just scene-setting. the book really begins once they arrive. This section of the book portrayed the loveliness of the city, and many of the descriptions were beautifully written. One of the 3 featured characters is involved in a hen party, and this custom is very unappealing to me. I don't see the appeal of a group of women dressing in ridiculous ...more
Jan 12, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Not going to waste any more time on this book by writing a review
Roger Brunyate
The Inner City

This book attracted me on a personal level, since it concerns a bunch of people from Belfast (my birthplace) flying for a weekend to Amsterdam, a city that is dear to my heart. In my day, about the only place you could fly to from Belfast was London, but in recent years easyJet has been offering cheap direct flights to several European cities, thus making them accessible to people who do not often travel. I doubt that David Park's novel will be adopted by the City of Amsterdam for
Kathryn Bashaar
Nov 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
I liked this book, but I have mixed feelings about how it ended. First, the ending seemed too abrupt. Second, at first I was a little upset that the ending left so many questions unanswered. But, as I thought about it, I became more comfortable with that. It's a pretty unsparing book: not bleak in any way, but certainly the author spares his characters no uncomfortable feelings or painful decisions. So I guess it's right that, in the end, the reader should not get easy answers either. Finally, t ...more
 Barb Bailey
Apr 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: ireland, fiction
Three strangers from Ireland travel from Ireland to Amsterdam for a get away weekend. Each of the three struggle with their own communication and relationship problems with a loved family member. The weekend away for each of the three seems to help bring some clarity to them as to how their relationships will proceed. Solid 3 stars...
May 18, 2012 rated it liked it
David Park is a well established author of literary fiction from the North of Ireland, who deserves to be better known than he currently is at present. For instance, he seems to lack an entry in Wikipedia, something which I may attempt to remedy in the near future! The Light of Amsterdam is his 8th novel, published by Bloomsbury to generally good reviews. It starts and finishes in Belfast, but the bulk of the events occur over a weekend in Amsterdam.

The Light of Amsterdam follows the interacti
Jan 09, 2018 marked it as unfinished  ·  review of another edition
I got to page 32. This is the second time I’ve been seduced by Park’s amazing-sounding plots – the blurb for this one and The Poets’ Wives are ever so appealing – but ended up unable to engage with them. Here, not one of the characters caught my attention. Park’s writing is interesting, but a bit belabored: there are more words and images there than you really need to make the point (e.g. “The solace he tried to take in his intellectual superiority was thinning in spiteful synchronicity with ...more
Sep 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Hostile teenagers, selfish adult offspring, thankless parental responsibilities and marital disappointments - any of this sound familiar? If so, you will relate to this sympathetically-drawn portrait of three people on a weekend trip with their families to Amsterdam. Variously regretting the life choices they have made, they begin to see their creaky relationships in a new light, from the fresh perspective of this foreign city.

Reviewed on
Henk-Jan van der Klis
How does a painter paint light? Why would you admire a painting by Vermeer and despise The Night Watch by Rembrandt, visiting the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam? It’s December, Christmas approaching and three different families set off for a weekend to the Dutch capital. Problems at home, whether in the US or in Ireland, are layered, just as a painting and the main characters may discover a new perspective, new inspiration and light. A father struggles with his recent divorce and getting along with hi ...more
Sep 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to read this book because it’s about people going to Amsterdam. Amsterdam is my city and I love her! There are three main characters in the book: Alan, Karen and Marion. Alan is an art teacher and goes to Amsterdam to see Bob Dylan in concert and he takes his son with him. Karen is single mom who works in a care home. She goes to Amsterdam because of her daughter’s hen party. Marion is a middle-aged woman who’s going to visit Amsterdam with her husband. These are all ordinary peo ...more
Lisa of Hopewell
Jan 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013
What an AMAZING writer!!!! Best novel I've read in ages.David Parks must have been sitting in Belfast brewing this marvelous "inner" story for years! It is so well crafted I didn't want to put it down. Exactly my sort of book--lots of inner workings to characters--hopes, dreams, thoughts and fears. Add to that a character just written for actor Robert Bathurst to play in movie version, and you have a winner all around. Nice too that no one is a lithe 20-something hopping in and out of beds with ...more
Sep 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Although not particularly well known, David Park should be. The Light of Amsterdam is a simple story of three main characters from Northern Ireland who spend a weekend in Amsterdam. He describes his characters beautifully and his dialogue rings true. His writing draws you into the stories and you're left wanting more at the (unresolved) ending. The exchanges between father and estranged teenage son, mother and daughter on the latter's hen weekend, and a couple who have haven't talked enough and ...more
Carolyn Cahalane
Sep 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
This man should be better known. As usual, Park explores impaired masculinity; the parent-child relationship and the insecure heart. In this tale of intertwining characters, I particularly enjoyed the exploration of a mother-daughter relationship. Once again, Park, through the character of the mother, looks at the hunger for fulfilment that an uneducated life can bring. This is daring writing, in many ways.
Filomena Mourinho
I chose this book to bring with me to my 5 day trip to Amsterdam. I always love to read something which takes place in the same place I'm visiting and this was the perfect choice. It tells the stories of three people who, for different reasons, are spending a weekend in this wonderful city, and how their lives are entwined while at the same time so different. It isn't light reading - it travels deep into each character and invites us to journey into ourselves as well. A must read! ...more
Dec 31, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, travel
Perhaps I'm being a little stingy with the stars, as I really did like this book and was tempted to give it 4 stars out of 5. The writing was wonderful, especially after you get over some of the overly-metaphoric descriptions early on in the story.

David Park tells a tale of middle-aged angst, as the lives of three 50-something characters from Belfast gently intersect during a weekend trip to Amsterdam. I am of that same age group and love the city of Amsterdam, where my Dutch ancestors resided,
I liked how there were three stories told and how two of them got intertwined. And it sets in Amsterdam, which is the reason why I bought the book in the first place. I found it interesting how the city is written through three different characters. I didn’t like the ending though. I don’t understand the ending. But overall it’s a nice book to read.
Helena Stone
Jun 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: irish, fiction, dutch, bookclub
This is a not altogether nice look at the inner lives of the three featured characters. There’s Alan, who cheated on his wife and now finds himself having to entertain his sixteen year old son during a weekend in Amsterdam. Karen is a single mother who’s sacrificed a lot to give her daughter everything she wanted only to be faced with what she considers the ultimate betrayal by that daughter. Marion is a middle aged woman with doubts about her husband’s loyalty who decides to take rather drastic ...more
Nov 15, 2013 rated it liked it
This book started out nicely. It was reminiscent of a Maeve Binchey novel where there are separate groups of people who keep running into each other. In this book the three groups are all from Belfast taking a week-end trip to Amsterdam. First of all, that's just plain exciting. Wouldn't it be great if you could travel to another country for the week-end? The three groups are a middle-aged couple looking for more oomph in their relationship, a woman joining her daughter on a hen party and an ar ...more
Sep 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction

Three families; one city; the trip that will change their lives.

If The Light of Amsterdam were made into a movie, that could be the poster. But the actual result of the book is much more subtle, which had its good and bad points.

First, the families. Alan is an art teacher in Belfast whose career has stalled and whose marriage is in trouble because he had a brief affair with a student and then confessed it to his wife, who has kicked him out and started seeing a hirsute home rehab specialist.

Rob Twinem
Nov 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
David who? you may ask but I can honestly tell you that David Park should be ,in some not so distant future, a worthy winner of a booker or orange prize! Park takes ordinary people...people like you and me living with hopes and aspirations, worries and problems, and weaves a wonderful and colourful story.The prose and style of writing is magnificent, you will be seduced and amazed from the very first page. All that you need to know about The Light of Amsterdam is that it is a story of three coup ...more
PopcornReads - MkNoah
Amsterdam is one of those magical cities that everyone I know has loved when they’ve visited. Sadly, I’ve never been, so this novel about the city peaked my interest. I loved the concept for The Light of Amsterdam by award-winning Irish author David Park, so I knew I had to read it and share it with you. This is a literary work in the finest storytelling tradition. Read the rest of my review at ...more
Mary Lou
May 27, 2013 rated it liked it
If you looked at a precis of this story, you could be forgiven for thinking the author is Cecilia Ahern. But this is much better. Although David Park is harsh with his characters, he burys them under deep emotional burdens with limited means of escape. This would have been 4 star except I hated the ending
Feb 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
I lived the beautiful description of Amsterdam. The story of the three different family groups experiencing their trip to that beautiful city was strange. The book seemed to just end with no conclusion.
Rachel Bremer
Jul 02, 2012 rated it it was ok
This was a little too "blah" for me. Nice moments, but overall not worth the time it took to read. ...more
Apr 10, 2014 marked it as to-read
IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize nominee 2014
Jan 10, 2016 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars
Aug 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Lovely prose style, about ordinary people's lives, insightful and often moving. ...more
The Light of Amsterdam is the story of three separate people whose lives are in a bit of a muddle, nothing out of the ordinary, but still the kind of issues that can make for sustained unhappiness. For different reasons they take a break from ordinary life in Belfast and spend a weekend in Amsterdam, a city that symbolises openness and freedom from the routine strictures of life.
Alan is an old-school university lecturer not keeping up with the new demands for accountability. He is divorced and r
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