This is an exquisite novel, translated from the Dutch original. The central character is Emma Verweij and she is a woman of 96 facing her own death, while looking back over her long and eventful life. The writing is superb, with not a superfluous word to be found. Reading this achingly sad and deeply moving book was in a paradoxical way a pure pleasure. It was akin to meditation, as the author draws us in to the inner world of Emma as the key elements and turning points of her life are revealed. The story unfolds in a cinematic series of memories as they come to Emma, as she prepares to let go of everything. This novel does not deal in graphic images or torturous long winded descriptions of the horrors of war, but rather it distils the essence of what happened and illustrates impact on those caught up in war with telling little details and suggestions rather than bold statements.
To read “The Longest Night” is to engage with our own attitudes to life, relationships and suffering. If this sounds gloomy, it isn’t, instead it’s uplifting and life affirming. The cultural context of the Dutch attitude to end of life decisions was a bit difficult and challenging for me but other than that, I thought this a beautiful read. It has given me more insight into the effects of the Second World War on those who lived through it than any amount of factual accounts.
Do yourself a favour and give yourself the gift of this wonderful little (200pages) novel. You will be changed.
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue online here.