Friday 27 September the members of the first ever Direct Dutch ‘leesclubs’ book-clubs attended the social evening and party in the central library (bibliotheek Den Haag) on the occasion of the announcement of the short list of the five candidates for the prestigious AKO literature prize 2013.
Early September the library organized 25 book clubs, each club discussed one of the 25 titles which are competing for the prize. Two of these clubs consist of expat readers and were run by the Direct Dutch Institute. The two titles they chose were ‘Dorst’ by Esther Gerritsen and ‘Helleveeg’ by A.F.Th van der Heijden.
In the library representatives of all the groups were interviewed in front of an audience about the book of their book-club. The members of the ‘Dorst’ group said that they were impressed by the mother-daughter theme but some were shocked by the explicit sex scenes. They also thought the book painfully funny. They awarded the book a 7 (out of ten).
The ‘Helleveeg’ group found the novel difficult and in the first half boring. ‘Mooi maar moeilijk en voorspelbaar’ (Beautiful but difficult and predictable). The book did, however, give them a clear insight into the development of Dutch society in a small catholic town from the fifties to the nineties. Their verdict: 7 (out of ten).
For many of the members of these two clubs the novel is the first Dutch literary book. It was not easy for them, but they learned a lot of new vocabulary and discussing the themes (in Dutch!) revealed a lot about the Dutch, their culture and their hang-ups.
Conclusion: this first experiment of an expat reading club can be judged as successful, both as a reading experience and for Dutch study purposes. And let’s not forget: it was fun!
To be continued!