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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Julia en het balkon

Maarten Asscher

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Title: Julia en het balkon
Author: Maarten Asscher
Genre: Novel
Written: 1997
Length: 92 pages
Original in: Dutch
Availability: Julia und der Balkon - Deutschland
  • Een novelle in eenentwintig bedrijven
  • Julia en het balkon has not yet been translated into English

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Our Assessment:

B+ : well done

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
NRC Handelsblad . 14/3/1997 Arnold Heumakers
Trouw . 18/4/1997 Onno Blom

  From the Reviews:
  • "Asscher heeft niet alleen zijn eigen verbeelding laten prikkelen door de foto, met zijn stemmenkoor prikkelt hij op zijn beurt de verbeelding van de lezer. Daarin zit de charme van deze bescheiden novelle. Asscher vertelt niet het hele verhaal, hij laat het bij een samenstel van suggesties, waardoor een raadselachtig clair obscur behouden blijft." - Arnold Heumakers, NRC Handelsblad

  • "Zo wordt de novelle nergens een flauwe whodunnit. Integendeel, Asscher laat even helder als suggestief tot op de laatste pagina het mysterie bestaan. Hij laat genoeg ruimte voor de verbeelding, voor je eigen, tweeëntwintigste stem." - Onno Blom, Trouw

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Maarten Asscher's book was inspired by the famous Life-photograph of a young woman who had committed suicide by jumping off the Empire State Building, resting what looked like peacefully atop the crushed car she had landed on. Julia en het balkon uses that image as a starting (and returning) point, but Asscher's dead girl's story isn't meant to be Evelyn McHale's. Here he calls her Julia Hanson, and in twenty-one very brief chapters explores her death from all angles.
       Each of the twenty-one sections is an account of some aspect of her death, from eyewitness-accounts to some at more of a remove. Asscher begins with the most immediate -- the photographer who chanced upon the scene, and snapped the famous shot -- and then circles away (even as the image remains a constant reminder). There are some eyewitness accounts -- of Julia falling, of Julia on the observation deck -- as well as some who provide other detail. They are all pieces of a puzzle, and Asscher soon makes clear that there's more to Julia's death than meets the eye, that it likely wasn't a simple suicide.
       He builds up the puzzle nicely enough, with some false trails and observations along the way -- the suicide note she apparently dropped before leaping, for example -- and since the story jumps from one person to the next, each with only a bit of information, the build-up is quite effective -- losing force only where Asscher has a narrator hold back (such as the police commissioner in charge of the (or some) case, who claims he can't reveal all he knows for fear of compromising an ongoing investigation ...).
       The success of the book stems from the fact that it does two things fairly well: the puzzle itself is, if unremarkable, decent enough (and well presented), and Asscher does a good job of presenting twenty-odd different points of view, making it more than just an exercise in variations on a theme. There's a story here, and remarkably Asscher doesn't allow it to be overwhelmed by the one overwhelming image that he starts off with -- no small accomplishment.
       Julia en het balkon is a very short book, but it's a clever, appealing read. With solid writing, an intriguing story, and a clever approach it's definitely worth your while (especially since it demands so little of it).

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Reviews: Other books by Maarten Asscher under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Dutch literature

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About the Author:

       Dutch author Maarten Asscher was born in 1957.

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