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Ten White Geese

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3.53  ·  Rating details ·  1,575 ratings  ·  286 reviews
A woman rents a remote farm in rural Wales. She says her name is Emilie. An Emily Dickinson scholar, she has fled Amsterdam, having just confessed to an affair. On the farm she finds ten geese. One by one they disappear. Who is this woman? Will her husband manage to find her? The young man who stays the night: why won’t he leave? And the vanishing geese?
Set against a stark
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Paperback, 230 pages
Published February 26th 2013 by Penguin Books (first published 2010)
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Popular Answered Questions
Lisa It takes place in rural Wales. Just a couple of pages in, it mentions Bangor and Caernarfon.
Heather Dawn Stowell Perhaps you mean the young man, Bradwen Jones, who lived with Agnes/Emelie? The author gives us the young male character, Bradwen, as a counterpart to…morePerhaps you mean the young man, Bradwen Jones, who lived with Agnes/Emelie? The author gives us the young male character, Bradwen, as a counterpart to Agnes' mature woman figure. Agnes hopes to gain some positive effect by allowing him to be around. Bradwen wants to satisfy his curiosity about women. Bradwen's quest to get his unasked questions answered began when his mother lay dying and he could hardly make sense of what she was saying as he was so distracted by her beauty. The author does not say how old Bradwen was when his mother died. This may have had a strong effect on him. So, it seems that Bradwen is trying to work out his feelings about women. Bradwen was not preying on women; he in fact did not travel very far at all from home to find the other two women. I see Bradwen's curiosity being fulfilled in a 'good' way with nothing bad about it. It was just coincidence that the three women lived in the same area. These are just my thoughts. I hope this helps :)(less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 3.53  · 
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 ·  1,575 ratings  ·  286 reviews


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Paula
Dec 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Literary fiction fans
Recommended to Paula by: Zoeytron
Ten White Geese, shortlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award, is a beautifully written, quite and mysterious read.

A woman leaves her husband and Amsterdam behind without a word and rents an isolated farm house in rural Wales. She fills her days happily by working in the garden and overgrown paths surrounding the house. On the farm live ten white geese. One by one they start to disappear for no apparent reason. A young man shows up one day, stays the night, And decides he doesn’t want
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Zoeytron
Jul 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: public-library
A panoply of the senses.  Pensive, reflective, and moving.  Beautiful.  

A woman rents a remote greystone farmhouse in Wales.  She has left her husband, needing time to herself, limiting her world, making it small.  Nature, the quiet, the colors, the sounds of water.  A old woman scent hangs in the air, is it residual or current?  A painfully shy badger, who shows itself only to her.  A gaggle of white geese, softly clucking, disappearing one by one.
Doug H
May 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Easily the best novel I've read this year and also the hardest to review. Three days later, I've dropped trying to read anything else because it's still growing in my mind. I've been working on my garden instead. It seems the appropriate thing to do.

I hope to follow up with a more grounded review when my thoughts are more fully formed.
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Connie G
Written in spare beautiful language, "Ten White Geese" is a captivating book in a very quiet way. A woman leaves the Netherlands, and obtains a short-term lease on an isolated Welsh farm house with a view of Mount Snowdon. The home is surrounded by meadows, a lake, and overgrown walking paths. She has been fired from her job at the university for having an affair with a student. Her marriage is troubled. She seems unwell, and regularly uses painkillers. She's disappeared from her old life, and n ...more
Trish
It is no surprise that a book about a scholar deeply immersed in the work of Emily Dickinson is also about death. The titular ten geese, by the end of this book, number only four. But this book is about deception, too, and perception; love, and relationships; nature, and gardens. We pass two months in Wales but every season is accounted for. Gerbrand Bakker has created a knotty piece of fine art for us to contemplate.

We never learn how old she is, Agnes, or Emily as she liked to be called. We k
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Stephen P

He lifts each item from the old refridgerator. Turning them in his hand he examines them. Some he considers worn, used and re-cooked, bland with age. Over a sideboard he slices and grates, pares. Then, he places the unlovely shavings into the heating tomato sauce. From a secreted drawer he raises the wooden ladle. Its scars from use run dark, in grooves, as bars for unwritten notes of music. Dressed in a suit and tie Bakker slides the ladle into the brew and stirs with one hand. There is a metho
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Jill
Jan 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Every avid reader can attest to this phenomenon: sometimes, when we go through our most challenging times, we serendipitously connect with a book that speaks to us both deeply and profoundly.

So it was with Ten White Geese, a book with an immense contemplative power that brought me to tears without quite knowing why.

Gerbrand Bakker crafts a deceptively simple story: an Emily Dickinson scholar who calls herself Emilie flees her marriage and her life in Amsterdam to rent a farmhouse in the small We
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Blair
Short, sparse and strange, Gerbrand Bakker's The Detour is the enigmatic tale of a Dutch woman, Emilie, who runs away from her husband and takes up residence in an isolated cottage in the Welsh countryside. For some time she lives a solitary existence there, as the reasons for her decision are slowly made clear to the reader. Her only companions are ten geese - and even they are disappearing, being picked off by a predator one by one. Then her privacy is disturbed: by the necessity of a visit to ...more
Diane S ☔
Nov 05, 2012 rated it liked it
This is a quiet book, set in Wales, with evocative and beautiful prose, a book in which I had no clue what I was reading or where it was going. Yet the prose kept me reading, a few things fell in place, the descriptions of the garden, the farm, and the place she was living was stellar. A few things began to fall in place and the reader learns what brought her here and why. There are no gasping denouements, no active action scenes or bloody body parts, just s story about a woman, running away fro ...more
Jim Coughenour
Ach. Another fine novel from the author of The Twin, another exploration of how it happens that a person resigns oneself to her (or his) own company, cuts ties with the surrounding community, develops small strategies of distraction and repose. As you might guess, this is not a cheerful read but Bakker's prose crackles with a definite dry sense of humor that I don't find in similar novels by (for example) by Dag Solstad or Per Petterson.

It would be a mistake to say too much about the plot of The
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Cathleen
May 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
I was finally able to finish ths novel during a long flight, but it's the furthest thing from an "airplane read" I could imagine. A woman, unnamed for a good portion of the novel, leaves her home in Holland and rents a farmhouse in rural Wales, ostensibly to finish writing her dissertation on Emily Dickinson. Very little writing ever occurs, and one soon realizes she's not there to write but to escape. Her past is revealed in broad strokes, yet with enough detail to know that she's escaping from ...more
Cheryl
Five stars. That was easy.
A Dutch woman flees her life, escaping to Wales and bringing only Emily Dickinson and the reader. The deceptively simple narrative pulls you along firmly. Emilie strips herself of the world; the quietude is seductive as she retreats into her self and immediate environment.
Emilie, on first moving into the old farmhouse, attempts some rudimentary gardening, which seems to be more a therapeutic maneuver than anything else. (When Bakker, who also works as a gardener, won t
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Anni
Apr 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
The version I read (kindly sent to me by my Goodreads pal Sue) was published under a different title - 'The Detour' which doesn't actually match the story so I'm not surprised it was changed.
It has a slow burner of a plot which takes quite a while to get going, but once engaged with the mysterious main character, her story surreptitiously starts to haunt the imagination.
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Diana
May 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dutch-authors
The Detour [2010/2012] – ★★★★

This is a book by a Dutch writer Gerbrand Bakker, whose previous book The Twin [2006] won the International Dublin Literary Award. The Detour (also known as Ten White Geese), translated from the Dutch by David Colmer, is about a Dutch woman who moves from her country and starts to live alone on a farm in rural Wales. Some of her nearby neighbours are badgers, cows and ten white geese whose number declines rapidly and mysteriously the longer she lives on her rented fa
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Tara
Nov 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Tara by: qtasha
One of the things I love about Goodreads is the community here. One big book club. And a huge thanks to one of my book club members, qtasha, for recommending Bakker to me. A jewel of an author I never heard of before.

I understand from the reviews that he may have more popular books than this one, but I loved this book. 4.5 stars. It's a literary novel with a dash of suspense and mystery. Full of unreliable narrators (three in total), some of the best dialog I have ever read, a bleak setting wort
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Roger Brunyate
Jun 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Ample make this bed
Ample make this bed.
Make this bed with awe;
In it wait till judgment break
Excellent and fair.

Be its mattress straight,
Be its pillow round;
Let no sunrise' yellow noise
Interrupt this ground.
This beautiful, beautiful book, a novel with the intimate feel of a novella, opens with a two-stanza poem by Emily Dickinson, "Ample make this bed." It closes with a translation of the same poem into Dutch. By the time we reach the end, we have taken possession of the epigraph, fully under
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Richard Newton
This is an odd book, in that I found it a compelling read and yet at the same time I was not particularly interested in the end in what the outcome was, only that I should reach that outcome. It is often difficult to judge the writing of an author who has been translated. Is it the author or translator being judged? Bakker writes in a flat way. He captures an air of mystery and sometimes menace, of loneliness and despair. Yet he failed, for me anyway, to develop any real interest in the characte ...more
Rebecca
A Dutch translator and Emily Dickinson scholar has fled a mistake in her personal life and settled in rural Wales at the foot of Snowdon. “She had left everything behind, everything except the poems. They would have to see her through. She forgot to eat.” On her farmstead is a dwindling flock of geese and, later on, a young man surveying for a new footpath. Amidst her quiet, secret-filled days we also learn of her husband’s attempts to find her back in Amsterdam. Bakker’s writing is subtle and l ...more
Friederike Knabe
Apr 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
TEN WHITE GEESE (or THE DETOUR in its UK translation of 2012) by Dutch author Gerbrand Bakker is a book that surprised me. Reading the first pages I wasn't sure this story would be one to capture and take hold of my imagination. How wrong I was! Picking it up again and allowing the writing to unfold slowly, I became more and more drawn to the central character, Emily, and the rural North Wales landscape she has retreated to. I soon realized that Bakker's novel is not primarily about plot and wha ...more
Julie Christine
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Wyndy
Dec 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is one of those books where you review the reading experience rather than the plot. At first I thought this was a story about a chronic adulteress, which is really not my thing. But I kept reading and began to realize this was about a complicated, courageous woman obviously in pain and seeking to prove something vital to herself, which is most definitely my thing. At the 100-page mark though, I still wasn't sure where this book was heading but kept reading, deciding to trust where Gerbrand ...more
Laraemilie
Ach, writing a review of The Detour is not an easy task. Even if I finished it a while ago, I am still confused about it. No doubt, it is an unusual book which is not for everybody to read... I finished it, but did I enjoy it? I am not sure, but I would still say it was worth reading it. Perhaps because of this strangeness, which is present in the whole story and fascinated me until the last pages. Because it is something different from what we can expect reading the back cover summary.
We follow
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Lisa
Jul 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eerie, and unputdownable.

It’s really hard to write much about Gerhard Bakker’s latest novel The Detour, without giving anything away. It reminded me in a way of another translated work that explored a young woman’s state of mind, but I’m not even going to name that one in case that becomes a spoiler. (So you have been warned, click the link (on my blog) at your peril!)

This is part of the blurb from the Scribe website:

A woman abandons her home in Holland without a word, leaving behind an imper
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Heather Noble
May 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book with a feeling of doomed fascination. I always read closely when a male author chooses to write from a female point of view and this book is also translated by a man. But it works and it has to be so because the Dutch woman seeking solace and solitude in Snowdonia Wales has recognised aspects of her life in that of the poet Emily Dickinson whom she is researching for a book. As well as the turmoil in her own life, "Emilie" has become disenchanted with the possibly exaggerated re ...more
Murray Ewing
The Detour starts off pretty low key and, well, stays that way till the last two (to me, unsatisfying) chapters. I was expecting some sort of slow, quiet revelation of character, but Bakker’s characters were so determined to avoid any sort of self-examination, let alone honesty towards one another, that there weren’t any revelations.

The humour was just depressing — people repeatedly refusing to understand one another — and some of the details were quite unbelievable (a GP who smokes in his consu
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Canadian Reader
What exactly was the point? If I were to write something like this novel, I doubt it would be published. I'm puzzled as to why people are waxing poetic about it. ...more
Gerda
Mar 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Dutch novel, not (yet?) translated. About a woman, undefined age but I think somewhere late thirties, who flees from Holland to go live in a rundown house in Wales. Leaving a husband who hasn't got a clue what's going on here.
What I like most about the book is the way it describes in detail all kind of sceneries, the rundown house, the garden, the area around it, the suffocating apartment of the parents. It is as if you're actually there.
The story in itself is appealing enough, even though so
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Tonymess
Jun 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
My edition was called "The Detour" - This novel opens with our main protagonist (to strangers she introduces herself as “Emilie”) spotting badgers at a stone circle in Wales. We quickly learn that she has come here from Amsterdam, leaving her husband without notice after a failed affair with a student. She is finalising a thesis on the minor poems of Emily Dickinson and is interning herself in an old cottage. Observing the flock of ten geese in her yard slowly deplete and tidying up the garden. ...more
Jules
Jun 16, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was expecting great things of this novel after reading all the recommendations. But for me it just didn't live up to it. I wasn't sure what was going on a lot of the time & I hate these novels where you spend brain power trying to read behind what is actually written - your mind goes off on a tangent & before you know it you're a few more pages along but suddenly realising you have no idea what you've just read! A depressing read, you know what the outcome is going to be & the whole thing was ...more
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Gerbrand Bakker werd geboren op 28 april 1962 in Wieringerwaard, als derde zoon in een boerengezin van zeven kinderen. Heeft van 1967 tot 1992 'op school' gezeten: kleuterschool; lagere school; havo; vwo; agogische akademie in Leeuwarden en Nederlandse taal- en letterkunde aan de universiteit van Amsterdam.

Van 1995 tot 2002 was hij ondertitelvertaler, waarbij hij een voorkeur ontwikkelde voor natu
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