Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Review: The Misfortunates / De helaasheid der dingen

Dimitri Verhulst
Started reading: April 13th 2021
Finished the book: April 25th 2021
Pages: 208
Genres: Dutch, Literature
Published: January 2006
Source: Ebook
Goodreads score: 3.78
My score:
Sobriety and moderation are alien concepts to the men in Dimmy's family. Useless in all other respects, his three uncles have a rare talent for drinking, a flair for violence, and an unwavering commitment to the pub. And his father Pierre is no slouch either.
Within hours of his son's birth, Pierre plucks him from the maternity ward, props him on his bike, and takes him on an introductory tour of the village bars. His mother soon leaves them to it and as Dimmy grows up amid the stench of stale beer, he seems destined to follow the path of his forebears and make a low-life career in inebriation, until he begins to piece together his own plan for the future...
In this semi-autobiographical novel, Dimitri Verhulst brings his shambolic upbringing to life, with characteristic warmth, colour, and wit.

My thoughts
Thanks to Arjen for introducing me to this book! It's originally in Dutch, known as De helaasheid der dingen and there is also a movie, so I'm really curious who, of my readers, has heard of this book. We read it quite fast, it wasn't that long, but I enjoyed it a lot. The writing style and humor were things that stood out to me.

  • Writing style: The writing style is so unique, I'm sure Dimitri Verhulst fans can easily pick him out of a bunch of books. It also made it so easy to rush through the book. I could've easily read another 100 pages. I think the word choice was also quite unique and not like anything I've seen before. Dimitri Verhulst is a Belgian writer, so I think the word choice also fit Flemish more than Dutch, but I enjoyed it because I've not read anything like it.
  • Humor: The humor is amazing. I've quoted the book on various occasions already and the book made me laugh out loud multiple times. What's also a strong aspect is that it's actually a pretty sad story as well, that mixed with the humor made for something special. The balance between the humor and the sad felt like yin and yang, it just fit each other.
  • Grow up: This feels like a coming to age book like no other. The main character grows up and sees his family in a different way when he gets older. I also felt like the book is about unconditional love for you family. It just had those subjects interwoven in the humor and lighthearted writhing style, but the topics are heavy nonetheless. Very strong and well written by Dimitry Verhulst.
  • Wow factor: I need a wow-factor to give a book 5 stars. Even though this book was unique and like nothing I've ever read, I never got that WOW feeling. Maybe a stronger ending would have given me that.
Definitely a piece of Dutch Literature that I would recommend anyone to read. You get through it quite quick and the choice of words and the humor balanced out with the heavy topics are like nothing I've ever seen. Definitely a book that will leave you laughing out loud, but also pondering several heavy subjects.

Other opinions on this book
"This bitingly honest book tips toward the amusing as fiction and toward the dismaying as autobiography."
- Publishers Weekly

"This is a welcome addition to the ranks of literary fiction that find humor, and sometimes poetry, in urban deprivation."
- Independent

Thanks for reading!
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~ Esther