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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Love's Death

Oscar van den Boogaard

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To purchase Love's Death

Title: Love's Death
Author: Oscar van den Boogaard
Genre: Novel
Written: 1999 (Eng. 2001)
Length: 152 pages
Original in: Dutch
Availability: Love's Death - US
Love's Death - UK
Love's Death - Canada
Mort de l'amour - France
Liebestod - Deutschland
  • Dutch title: Liefdesdood
  • Translated by Ina Rilke

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Our Assessment:

B+ : stark novella of stark love lost

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Neue Zürcher Zeitung C- 23/6/2001 Dorothea Dieckmann
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction A- Fall/2001 Jason D. Fichtel
Die Welt A 14/4/2001 Marita Keilson

  From the Reviews:
  • "Was eine sehr einfache, sehr tragische Geschichte hätte werden können, wird also in bemühte, zusehends unplausible Konstruktionen, in Abrechnungen, Bilanzen und Parallelitäten gezwängt und in einer faden Schlussszene ganz verschenkt." - Dorothea Dieckmann, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "Stylistically, Love's Death is astounding. Boogaard deftly stretches out time through acute attention to every detail, mirroring the attempts of the characters to keep ahold of something in the present. The narrative is told almost entirely in the present tense and at times with such sparseness, such directness, that the sense of loss permeating the text is truly experienced by the reader." - Jason D. Fichtel, Review of Contemporary Fiction

  • "Wie in Julias Herrlichkeit sind in Liebestod die Fäden der Erzählung kunst- und geheimnisvoll verschlungen." - Marita Keilson, Die Welt

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:

       Love's Death has four parts. The first centers on the events of a single day in 1973. The second and third take place some seven years later, in the winter of 1980. The final one is set in 1987.
       The novel begins with a tragedy: Paul and Oda Klein's eight year old daughter, Vera, drowns in their neighbour's pool. The focus here is mainly on the neighbour, Inez, upon whom the child was foisted in the morning.
       All was clearly not right in the Klein household before the death:

Sometimes Inez would find her asleep in their bedroom. The child would sneak into their house to take a nap. As if that were not possible in her own home.
       The Klein's also do not seek solace in each other after the tragedy. Instead Paul flees, accepting an army posting in Suriname (formerly Dutch Guiana) and returning home only after seven years. Things don't improve upon his return: Oda puts him in Vera's old room rather than take him back in her bed -- and he is too weak to protest.
       A minor tragedy then strikes next door, as their neighbour's house goes up in flames -- but illusory hope is found there as well, as a vision advances out of the burning building, a fifteen year old girl from the States who had been living with Inez and her husband, Hans. The Klein's volunteer to take in the girl. Her name is Daisy, and she is, of course, the same age Vera would have been were she still alive. Daisy does bring the household vaguely together, as both Oda and Paul dote on her, though they are constantly uncertain of how they should and can treat her. Independent-minded Daisy also has ideas of her own, navigating (in wide arcs) the territory between childhood and adulthood.
       Another figure is also a presence -- Emil, a general in the army and a friend of Paul. Or rather "a buddy". He comes to the fore late in the novella, clearing up what was actually happening back in 1973.
       It is an odd little novella, full of sad love. The loss of the child is, indeed, the death of love -- not merely the parental love for Vera, but considerably more. Not, as it turns out, that there was happiness in the cards had Vera lived. No, things were and are considerably darker than they appear.
       Love fails throughout the novel. There is no happy affair here, except, perhaps, between Inez and Hans (though that isn't really clear). There's a fair amount of intimacy, but all the sex is one-off. And much of the intimacy is of a decidedly inappropriate nature.
       The girls, Vera and Daisy, flail for love, easily seducing but ultimately no happier for it. The men, Emil and Paul, both hopelessly love Oda, but events make loving her practically an impossibility -- and also push them to find at least moments of happiness elsewhere. Van den Boogaard writes of Paul: "all he wants is to love her, he wants to love her every minute they are together: wholeheartedly, unabashedly, totally." But Oda won't have it, and clearly neither Paul's nor Emil's love for her were meant to be.
       Van den Boogaard has written a fairly effective novella. Tragedy and melancholy are quite well done, and the efforts by those involved to fill the void left by the child's death ring fairly true. There are, however, also some decidedly creepy goings-on, especially those involving the two girls. Both Vera and Daisy are almost surreal ingénues and manipulators, and the death of innocence is rather uglier than it first appears.
       The characters are odd too, and van den Boogaard's shifting focus does not help paint a clearer picture of them. The largely irrelevant Inez is too much of a focus in the first part, while Emil dominates the last simply so that he can recapitulate and explain the past.
       Not one of the characters is entirely likable or sympathetic, except, perhaps (at least for much of the novel), the victim Vera. All are, at the very least, troubled -- often inexplicably so (especially the shadowy Vera). Paul, also, seems entirely too simple: "Order, armor, and routine" dominate the officer's life, and it is something that we are not allowed to penetrate. There is also never a satisfactory explanation of why he and Oda became a couple.
       A quite powerful novella, Love's Death unfolds with some interesting twists and turns. It unfolds somewhat clumsily, but the writing is fairly solid. There are several surprises, and some shocking turns. A gripping read, it also leaves quite a sour aftertaste. There is little hope for love here, but unfortunately these characters don't really seem all that deserving of it.

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Reviews: Oscar van den Boogaard: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Dutch literature at the complete review

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About the Author:

       Dutch author Oscar van den Boogaard was born in 1964. He has written numerous novels. He lives in Brussels.

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