Old Heart

Old Heart

Old Heart is a novel about Tom Johnson, an 85-year old American widower who embarks on a mission to find Sarah van Praag, the Dutch woman he fell in love with during WWII. Tom’s journey takes him back to Veldhoven, a small town close to Eindhoven in the southern province of North Brabant, where he had been stationed during the war. In doing so, he eludes his adult children, Brooks and Christine, who have their own motives for wanting to see their father relocated in a local retirement village. His relationships with all family members are beautifully detailed throughout the novel. Old Heart is about love, loss, aging, relationships and self-discovery. It is a story of Dutch people and culture, from an American perspective.  Ferry’s portrayal of Veldhoven and its inhabitants rings true, a consequence of him having lived in the town as a Fulbright exchange teacher in 1991-2. As a novelist the author displays remarkable talent in transposing the story through timeframes, continents and narrators. Ferry refuses to take the easy path by jumping to fairy tale conclusions. Every character is complex and their negative attributes are clearly displayed. This full exposure gives the characters substance and the plot credibility. At no time is the reader presented with a stereotypical ‘sweet old person’ character – often found in books and films, but never found in real life. Old Heart requires the reader to question the idea that making decisions and taking chances is something older people are incapable of doing. Setting the tale in the Netherlands, both in the present day and during WWII, offers a Dutch cultural and historical perspective, which is softly differentiated from that apparent in North America. Old Heart is a thought-provoking and entertaining novel. Highly recommended. Ana McGinley  More >

Invading Holland

Invading Holland

The adventures of an accident-prone English man who arrived in the Netherlands in 2001 for a six month stay. More >



Three years in Amsterdam and counting! Daily journeys through the streets of this cosy and beautiful city. More >

Holland Cycling

Holland Cycling

Explore the Netherlands the Dutch way - by bicycle. Includes where to go, planning your trip, tips and info. More >

I love Noord

I love Noord

North Amsterdam is described as the Brooklyn of the Dutch capital. If you want to know why, read this blog. More >

Angel of Amsterdam

Finally, we have an English-language edition of prize-winning Dutch author Geert Mak's Angel of Amsterdam.  Mak is one of the finest of Dutch authors and the book provides unique glimpse into and better understanding of this fascinating city. First published in 1993,  The Angel of Amsterdam:  Seven City Stories introduces a large, varied cast of loyal Amsterdammers, dating from 1275 to approximately 1990, all boasting a unique attachment to the city. All seven stories are independent essays, connected only by being set in Amsterdam.  Readers familiar with the city will be able to identify neighbourhoods, buildings, and the names of historical figures. The first story, ‘A City in Blue’, is a modern-day description of Amsterdam from an aerial perspective. This is followed by, ‘Stone and Earth on the Burgwal’ which delves into the history of the city via the artifacts found in a house being renovated by the narrator.  The third story considers the mitigation of staunch religious standards as people from isolated rural areas move to the city seeking better opportunities. Rembrandt is the central figure in ‘The Forgotten Girl, the City and the Painter’ – with his changing fortunes reflecting the changing values of Amsterdam society in 1600s. The last three essays focus on population groups not generally photographed for Amsterdam tourist guides.  “Making Tracks around Central Station’ follows prostitutes, pimps, and homeless people with chronic substance abuse issues or mental health problems.  The narrator spends time with these individuals, learning how and where these people survive in the city. Similarly, ‘Three Afternoons with Henk Plenter’ sees the narrator accompanying a public health inspector responsible for investigating complaints regarding bad smells.  The cause of the stench often related to an individual, sometimes dead, but often suffering from an untreated psychiatric illness and abandoned by family, friends, neighbors or social services. Overall, this book of short essays provides an interesting insight into Amsterdam’s history, and the social fabric that make it the colorful city it is today. After 20 years, it is a little dated and may benefit from the addition of a present day story to add relevance for newer residents of the city.  Yet The Angel of Amsterdam remains a fascinating commentary on the city and its inhabitants. Buy this book Ana McGinley  More >

Bicycle Mania

The title and cover picture promise an eccentric and lighthearted peek into the Dutch love affair with all things on two wheels. What you get is a chunky little picture book with some nice photos and a few pages of bicycle facts and trivia. If you've ever wanted to know how many bicycles there are in Holland (approximately 18 million), or that there are 29,000 kilometers of cycle paths throughout the country, then this might titillate. And if you're curious to know the reasons why cycling is predominant in the Netherlands (all seven of them), you're likely to enjoy thumbing through this. But beyond the stats (and there are oodles of boring ones) and comparisons between cycling policies both here and abroad, there's not much to hold the reader's attention unless you're a hard-core cycling fanatic, and even then it might be a little too pedestrian. It is however good to look at and I sometimes found myself wondering what pretty part of Holland I was looking at, and wishing the author had referenced the photos with their locations. It's the kind of book you might take off someone else's bookshelf to flick through and it certainly has charm, but probably not to a native, or a long-term expat who sees it all for real on a daily basis. Nevertheless, if you fancy a quaint addition to your novelty reading collection then this has appeal. Buy this book Shelley Antscherl books@dutchnews.nl  More >

The Darkness that Divides Us

Born in Amsterdam in 1954, Renate Dorrestein began her working life as a journalist for the Dutch magazine Panorama. Her first novel Buitenstaanders (1983) became a bestseller and marked the beginning of an industrious career in literature. Dorrestein has published more than 30 fictional and autobiographical books, some of which have been translated or made into films - gaining her international recognition as a writer of merit. Dorrestein’s collection of work was awarded the Annie Romein Prize in 1993. She won the Vondel Prize for Translation for her novel Heart of Stone and was nominated for numerous literary prizes including the Libris Literature Prize for Een Sterke Man (A Strong Man) and the AKO prize for Zonder Genade (Without Mercy).  Dorrestein has twice written the national Dutch Book Week complimentary book, in 1997 and 2008. The Darkness that Divides Us Initially published in 2003 as Het Duister dat Ons Scheidt, this recently released version was translated by Hester Velmans and is available to English readers as The Darkness that Divides Us. The novel is a family drama infused with mystery. The book is divided into three parts, with each part covering a six-year period. The 26 chapters are titled with a letter of the alphabet, beginning with ‘A is for Abacus’ and ending with ‘Z is for Zeal’. The storyline revolves around a Lucy, a Dutch girl who spends her early childhood living in a rectory with her artist mother and their two male boarders, Ludo and Duco. A tragic crime is committed, resulting in Lucy’s mother being sent to prison and six-year-old Lucy experiencing a drastic drop in popularity with her peers. Her childhood in this idyllic Dutch village becomes an ordeal when the children commence a constant regime of bullying. In Part Two Lucy’s mother is released from jail and returns home. The local community is unwilling to allow her re-entry into the life she had prior to her incarceration. Lucy too is unable to reconnect her relationship with her mother, preferring the company and guidance of Duco and Ludo. Seeking a panacea to their domestic unrest, the four escape to a life of anonymity on the island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Here Lucy is given the chance to reshape her childhood with the island children. The final part of the book focuses on Lucy departing Lewis and the care of her guardians for Amsterdam where she plans to live independently and attend college. Her resolution disappears upon seeing someone from her past. She quickly slips into a funk, unable to leave her room. A meeting with her mother in the final pages resolves the mystery that has been weaved throughout the narrative, shaping the lives of the main characters. Beautiful, happy people? No. Dorrestein doesn’t write about beautiful people. She refrains from sentimentality in her character descriptions, choosing instead to expose their flaws. These negative attributes are easily identifiable in the general populace. The children in the book may be adventurous in their antics, yet in general, are written as nasty, dirty, destructive bullies. Adult characters are devoid of empathy and driven by their own insecurities. The plot holds tightly together, tempting the reader further to uncover the secrets hidden in later pages. The translation of this narrative of complicated interpersonal relationships is the work of an extremely skilled translator in Hester Velmans. The Darkness that Divides Us succeeds as an English language novel and is highly recommended. Ana McGinley Buy this book  More >

The Dutch, I Presume

All the cliches are here. This book deals with the forty best-known Dutch features and stereotypes, from windmills to Cruijff and from Rembrandt to the typical toilet. Were the clog and the infamous cheese slicer really Dutch inventions? How come some Dutch masters went bankrupt in the tulip trade? And why have most Dutch never heard of world-famous Hans Brinker? Providing the facts and unraveling the myths, this book gives you the essentials on living in the polders, and is yet another guide to surviving a Dutch birthday party. Buy this book  More >

The Little History of The Hague for Dummies

Adding to the Dummies franchise of books is a new historical reference guide to The Hague. Written by Leon van der Hulst and translated by Barbara Stuart, A Little History of The Hague for Dummies is a pocket book of 159 pages encompassing 6,000 years of life in the political capital of the Netherlands. Despite its size, it adheres to the traditional Dummies format with the familiar icons and concluding with a list of 10 interesting facts. History books usually read like storybooks. They are, after all, a tale of events that have taken place over long periods of time. The For Dummies reference guides generally target an audience seeking a basic understanding of a topic. As such, The Little History of The Hague for Dummies is successful in highlighting all major developments in the city’s history. The chapters are short and include interesting tidbits on local people and topics that enhance the reading experience. The downside of this book is that the disjointed structure and paucity of information makes it difficult to get a clear grasp on the themes and events that have taken place. Adding to the confusion is the repetition of some details, the fact that the kings had the same name (different number), and the sheer mass of the significant events that demand inclusion but are restricted in length to a few short sentences. It is all in the reading Nevertheless, while a tourist guide will give descriptions about specific buildings, this book provides an opportunity to dive a little deeper into The Hague by offering some historical facts about what happened within its boundaries. A good example is the Huis ten Bosch which was built in 1645 and currently one of the official residences of the Dutch royal family. It has, the book informs the reader, been home to King Louis Napolean and stadthouders Frederik Hendrik, Willem IV and V – and has functioned as a summerhouse, prison, brothel and museum. (p.151) A little summary The Little History of The Hague for Dummies is a pocket size guide to the history of the city. For readers who love their history books, it will whet your appetite to learn more. Tourists will attain a deeper understanding of the city using the guide then possible from travel guidebooks. And for the non-Dutch reader living in the Netherlands, the book will equip you with sufficient knowledge to participate in many discussions about the city without sounding like a total twit. Ana McGinley  More >

Amsterdam, a metropolitan village

Amsterdam, a city with grit that embraces you, a city with the appeal of a metropolis and the flair of a Dutch village. This is a gorgeous photo book of Amsterdam. Buy this book  More >

Cloudless Amsterdam – City in Motion

An unexpected and beautiful view of a changing city From the wonderfully undulating Zeedijk and the monumental Westertoren to the copper-green Nemo in the Eastern Docks and the Water District of IJburg: Amsterdam has a wealth of striking places with impressive nuildings, fascinating streets and delightful squares. Photographer Peter Elenbaas took around seven thousand aerial photographs - most in the summer of 2012, but some of them decades ago - and chose his favourites for Cloudless Amsterdam: A City in Motion. Together they provide an unexpected view of the changing city. Journalist Lambiek Berends wrote a brief history to accompany them. Buy this book  More >

The Art of Living in Amsterdam

Amsterdam's historic network of concentric canals earned UNESCO World Heritage status in 2010. The impressive architecture and facades of this elegant town centre are mirrored by the luxury and chic of the building's interiors. Italian photographer Listri and author Van Ogtrop take the reader on an indulgent photographic tour of this refined environment, where the Dutch Golden Age past meets with contemporary interior design and technologies in the homes of artists, collectors and antique dealers. Buy this book    More >

Dutch Cooking: The New Kitchen

If the idea of authentic Dutch cuisine fills you with horror, then you're not alone. Even the authors of The New Kitchen admit that, 'Dutch cooking does not, to say the least, have a very good international reputation.' Amsterdam based writers Manon Sikkel and Michiel Klonhammer have penned numerous articles about their passion for traditional food and have enthusiastically updated some authentically rustic dishes in Dutch Cooking: The New Kitchen. You could be forgiven for thinking that there is little appeal in modernizing recipes that include culinary gems like cheese soup or salsifies with sour cream, but there's lots about this cheery and self-deprecating little book that makes you want try them out, like the bizarre but surprisingly tasty, eel and asparagus soup or the hash, made from stewed steak (with herbs, onions and juniper berries). If you ate this kind of food every day then watch out! You might just find your left ventricle slamming shut. It's what you might call wholesome, stodgy fodder: very short on sophistication but full of flavour. Generations of Dutch peasants toiled the polders nourished on this kind of fuel and it certainly hasn't stunted the nation's growth, so what is there to criticise? Well quite a bit actually, such as the bacon pancakes with avocado mousse, which according to my husband, won't even tempt a famished fox. As well as nearly all of the vegetable dishes, and specifically the sprout puree which looks like it's passed through the digestive tract of a cat. But thankfully almost every pudding was scrumptious and my three-year-old thought the strawberry fool and apple pie were 'Lishus'. It was only the prunes and curd that let the side down and looked revolting despite whatever nutritional benefits it may have boasted in days of olde... Dutch Cooking: The New Kitchen, has been lovingly produced in homage to old-fashioned Dutch cuisine and it successfully manages to inject some fun into a stale national pastime with this funky mix of traditional hearty fare. All the recipes are simple, cheap and easy to prepare which makes it an ideal cookery book for youngsters, or anyone who fancies trying out an eclectic menu on friends. But if you really are planning a 'Dutch' dinner party, and before you fill the trough, just make sure you choose the courses wisely, and more importantly, keep a defibrillator handy. Shelley Antscherl books@dutchnews.nl  More >

The Dutch Golden Age

A beautifully illustrated book about the Golden Age of The Netherlands. Produced to Accompany the Dutch documentary series De Gouden Eeuw. Buy this book  More >