Logbook of the Low Countries

Logbook of the Low Countries

You could be forgiven for thinking this is probably not something you'd buy on impulse. After all, it sounds like the sort of dusty old title you might stumble across in a secondhand bookshop. But for any history buffs out there, don't stop reading just yet! Because Dutch economist and history connoisseur Wout van der Toorn, has poured his heart and soul into Logbook of the Low Countries, and appears to have compiled almost every single historical episode afflicting the Lowlands, and set it against major historical events that occurred in the rest of the world. Example: If you've ever wondered what else was going on in 1793 when the Southern Netherlands had once again been conquered by a pesky Austrian regime then I'm chuffed to enlighten you, that Dutch suppression commenced in the same year that Louis XVI and his ('Let them eat cake') Mrs, were being guillotined in Paris! Going back as far as 150,000 BC (when Northern Europe was still connected to Scandinavia by glacial ice apparently), it stomps along right up until 2010, with the election of Mark Rutte, the first Liberal Prime Minister of the Netherlands for nearly a century. Let's be honest about this, Logbook of the Low Countries will not appeal to everyone (although frankly, we could all learn quite a bit from the knowledge it imparts), but that doesn't mean it's not worth reading. This is a beautifully produced book in hard cover, illustrated with some lovely old maps, and full of historical facts that will certainly titillate anyone with an interest in history. Buy this book Shelley Antscherl www.shelleyantscherl.com  More >

European Mama

European Mama

A blog by a Polish mother living in the Netherlands with her German husband and two daughters. More >

Kristen in Clogland

Kristen in Clogland

'Kristen in Clogland' is a blog about an Aussie discovering the Netherlands and adjusting to life in another country More >



Amsterdam based actress invites you to dive with her into the cultural life of the city. 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 >

A Millenium of Amsterdam

Author Fred Feddes threads together 40 stories about the original landscape of present-day Amsterdam, its reclamation, the changing relationship between water and land, and the continuing history of the city's growth, rebuilding and urban planning. With its starting point at Dam Square, the book fans out through the city and surrounding region, and through time from the year 1000 until the present day. Filled with archival photographs, illustrations and maps, the book imparts a comprehensive and fascinating spatial history of this complex Dutch city. 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 >

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 >

Amsterdam Slavery Heritage Guide

The Amsterdam Slavery Heritage Guide is a walking guide to Amsterdam that focuses on the history of slavery in the city. The guide, published in 2014, is part of the VU University 'Mapping Slavery Project' which also covers Utrecht and Haarlem. As it notes in the forward, little is taught in Dutch schools and known generally about the history of slavery and the slave trade in the Netherlands. The book opens with an overview of the history of slavery in the Netherlands, as well as the Dutch overseas holdings. It focuses on four overall themes: Trade and profit, black in the city, resistance and abolitionism, and museums and archives. The book starts with a fold out map, showing 115 different locations that it discusses in further detail in the rest of the book. Though it doesn’t highlight a specific walking route, most of the locations are in the city centre and it's fairly easy to create your own route. It’s a small book and easy to carry during your walking tour. Each number on the map gets a page or two, with images, to describe the location and its history. Popular Amsterdam locations are featured, from the palace on the Dam to the Nieuwe Kerk. But obscure locations are also included, like the two busts of Moors on a building on the Herengracht. Even without walking a route, the book is filled with lots of interesting tidbits about history. For example, the official residence of the city's mayor was once home to slave trader Paulus Godin. The entire book is published in both Dutch and English. This is useful, but occasionally it creates a confusing layout which makes it hard to find the texts in the language of your choice. The book also uses a number of photos which are without captions and thus leave the reader wondering who the people are and what they were doing to warrant inclusion. Overall, however, the book is immensely informative and easy to use. Buy this book  More >

Complete Dutch

If you can master a combination of some basic English, German and a guttural noise akin to clearing your throat, then you'Ž“ve taken your first steps to learning Dutch. With this in mind, you will also need some patient tuition, but in the absence of that, you could do a lot worse than Complete Dutch and the two accompanying CDs. It covers a range of topics that most people new to these shores will find useful and chapters are set out in an easy to read format that include a mixture of dialogue, grammar, vocabulary, short tests and useful information. It'Ž“s so reader friendly that you will find yourself getting the gist of the lingo quite quickly especially in the first section which is all about greeting people and introducing yourself. Later chapters include learning to speak in the past tense and discussing your emotional and physical state as well as making and receiving simple telephone calls. As you sit and read through the book you can listen to the CD of people acting out the dialogues, bringing the accent to life and providing perfect examples of how Dutch should sound. And herein lies the rub because although the language itself is not overly complicated, the pronunciation of any word with one or more Ž•gsŽ“ in it will have you sweating with vocal exhaustion - as anyone who haŽ“s ever tried to say Ž•Gefeliciteerd!Ž“ quickly, and for the first time, will know. Complete Dutch is supposedly for beginners with no previous language experience, but anyone who falls entirely into this bracket might find it intimidating as it romps along heartily from the beginning. Having said that, it's an excellent language guide and certainly worth investing in if you are serious about learning to conquer this gloriously throaty vernacular. 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 Bee’s Tour of Gouda: Buzzing Through Vinita’s Lens

Cheese. Hard, tasty, bright yellow cheese. That's what appears in many people's minds when they think of Gouda. But of course the cheese gets its name from a very historical little city in the South of Holland that's featured in The Bee's Tour of Gouda: Buzzing Through Vinita's Lens. Author Persephone Abbott and photographer Vinita Salom have lovingly researched their hometown and created a suggested walking route that takes in the beautiful city of Gouda in a historical, cultural and pictorial manner. At only 70 pages long and handy A5 size, it's an ideal travelling companion should you fancy an educational ramble around a little city that began as a settlement in the Middle Ages, built around a fortified castle. It would be fair to point out however, that this baedeker would suit seasoned visitors and tourists, prepared to pore over and decipher the hand drawn maps, as opposed to baseball-capped Floridians and the like, who might find it too intricate if they are attempting to do the entire Netherlands in a couple of days. Despite the obvious research that has gone into creating this packed little guide, it has the feel of an economically produced booklet rather than the book it strives to be. If you are looking for accommodation or places to eat and drink, then Tour of Gouda will not be of much use, but if you're interested in Gouda's history, then this will certainly educate and fulfill the more enlightened traveler. Buy this book Shelley Antscherl www.shelleyantscherl.com  More >

Charlotte Brontë’s Secret Love

Dutch author, Jolien Janzing, is an expert in nineteenth century English literature, a fascination traceable to a time in her childhood when she first read English classics Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights by the Brontë sisters, Charlotte and Emily. And while it may seem an odd preoccupation for a woman who has lived most of her life in Belgium, Janzing’s erudition provides the foundation to her compelling literary work Charlotte Brontë’s Secret Love, recently published in English translation . Originally published as Meester in 2013, Charlotte Brontë’s Secret Love concentrates on the period (1840s) when Charlotte and Emily Brontë lived and worked at Pensionnat Heger, a boarding school for young ladies in Brussels. Charlotte falls in love with Constantin Heger, the husband of the school’s owner. This wretched experience of unrequited love is a crucial thread to the tale and later becomes the foundation for the character of Jane Eyre in Charlotte Brontë’s renowned novel of the same name. Factual fiction This book is constructed from available information about the Brontë sisters and is further embellished into an enjoyable narrative by adding fictional touches to fill gaps. Most of the characters and places are recognizable from historical texts. For example the letters between Charlotte and Constantin are written in a similar tone and style to the original letters yet are not the actual letters. Similarly, the supplementary storyline of King Leopold embarking on an extramarital affair with Brussels teenager, Arcadia Claret, incorporates a generous mix of fact and fiction. That ole devil called love Charlotte’s internal struggles are the source of tension apparent throughout the novel. Her struggle begins with the decision to follow her desire to escape from the confines and expectations of being the pastor’s daughter in impoverished Yorkshire - to study abroad in the cosmopolitan city of Brussels. Upon her arrival at the boarding school, her religion, clothes, language and sister are all constant reminders that she does not belong in this new world and that her survival depends on the strength of her own character. For Charlotte, being in love is the driving force that powers her through days of adversity. Many readers will find it difficult to identify what masculine wiles Constantin uses to seduce the young Charlotte. Yet her compulsive need to be acknowledged by him, even with full awareness that the situation is not conducive to a relationship, is familiar to many love stories. Setting scenes Janzings’ descriptions of culture, class and religion adeptly transport the reader between Brussels to the Yorkshire moors in the 1840s. The contrast between the teahouses and dressmaking businesses visited by Arcadia and her mother – and the Belgian wharves with men that smell to Charlotte of 'a strong odour of fish, sweat and cabbage soup' something she finds 'not totally repulsive' (pg45) are comprehensive yet seamlessly written. Jolien Janzing has been writing since she was a teenager. She continues to live in Belgium and works as a journalist and novelist. Charlotte Brontë’s Secret Love is her second novel. Beautifully translated into English by Paul Vincent, the novel has also been translated into German, French and Turkish. The book was selected for Books at the Berlinale, and film rights to the book have been sold to David P. Kelly Films. Buy this book Ana McGinley  More >

Holland Handbook

This richly illustrated handbook offers 256 full-color pages of essential information for the expatriate on all aspects of living and working in the Netherlands such as: career, fiscal issues, health care, housing, insurance, international education, registration and telecommunications. Buy this book  More >

Living With the Dutch: An American Family in the Hague

Before going to The Hague, Sharpe and her American family actually planned to move to Paris, but her husband Peter was offered a position in the Netherlands. They find typical expatriate problems on their path, learn a lot about how to tackle them and in the mean time discover a completely new country. Buy this book Review this book. Contact books@dutchnews.nl  More >