by Marijke Schermer
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Pub Date 04 Apr 2023 | Archive Date 31 Mar 2023
Emilia has it all: a rewarding career as a statistician, a wonderful husband, two healthy young sons, and a house in the countryside. But when a brief moment of panic triggers the memory of a traumatic experience from twelve years before, Emilia finds herself floating away from her average existence. The secret she’s kept for so long refuses to stay hidden, and as Emilia’s grip on reality loosens, heavy rains begin to fall and the river threatens to overflow the house. In this critically acclaimed novel, Schermer explores the impact of sexual violence, and whether or not it’s possible to truly know another person. Breakwater is a haunting examination of memory and trauma, written in prose stunning in its frankness and precision.
Praise for Breakwater
“This writer knows what she’s doing, that much is clear. Breakwater is a book that hurts. The supreme happiness and blunt violation of it are placed side by side with great precision. Ineluctably, it advances toward a climax. Now I want to read this writer’s other work too.” ―De Groene Amsterdammer
“Her second novel starts in an exemplary and classical fashion in all senses. Schermer work reminds one of Ian McEwan’s. But with the ending she then mocks the classical form and norm. This is excellent literature.” ―NRC
“What Marijke Schermer does in Breakwater is incredible. The story—in language that streams and flows and hits home—grows increasingly oppressive.” ―MARJON KOK
“Every time I read the first chapter I honestly think: this is so good, this is so wonderful. I like everything about it.” ―MARJA PRUIS
“An exemplary tale of lies and silence.” ―De Limburger
Praise for Love, If That’s What It Is
“The author expertly humanizes each of the characters’ desires and flaws as she illuminates the raw, inner workings of a broken marriage. This is as cathartic as it is gut-churning. ... A scintillating debut.” ―Publishers Weekly
“In Love, If That’s What It Is Marijke Schermer dissects ordinary family life so subtly and yet so vibrantly, that it leaves you out of breath and makes you reevaluate your own most self-evident assumptions.” ―ROXANE VAN IPEREN, author of The High Nest
- Critically acclaimed novel by Dutch author Marijke Schermer, for fans of books about marriage and secrets
- For readers of Ian McEwan and Lauren Groff
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Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 6 members
Like her debut, Love, If That’s What It Is, Marijke Schermer’s new novel explores a marriage, this one built upon a shocking secret kept for so long there seems no going back until a thoughtless act triggers traumatic memories than can no longer be buried.
Emilia and Burch are rushing to get to the theatre in Amsterdam, getting the children to bed before driving from their isolated home. At the end of the performance, they become separated. Emilia wanders off to the bar, takes her drink outside and leans over the balcony. When someone grabs her from behind, she lets herself go limp, falling to the ground, shocking her friend Frank who thought he was playing a harmless prank but his behaviour has triggered memories of a brutal rape by a stranger that she chose to keep from Burch. Over the next few months, Emilia begins to unravel until a revelation is made which rocks her faith in her marriage.
There are echoes of #MeToo in Schermer’s novel. Frank’s thoughtless grab would have been discomfiting to any women let alone one who had suffered such an attack and the behaviour of Emilia’s friend and colleague towards their intern is inexcusable although her reaction offers hope of progress. Emilia’s decision not to tell Burch about the rape is based on protecting their relationship but it doesn’t acknowledge the damage done to her, nor the effort of keeping a secret she had begun to feel might be better told. Hers is a powerful, graphic narrative written with the same compassion and empathy that characterised Schermer’s first novel
This was a quick, tense read. Unlikeable characters, raging floods, mental/marital collapse. Unlike some translations, the atmosphere and plot weren’t lost. Unfortunately, I still felt like I was left with too many unanswered questions to feel that the ending was satisfying.
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