The Harbour Master

The Harbour Master

The latest novella from British author, Daniel Pembrey, is a thriller set in modern day Amsterdam. The Harbour Master escorts readers into the seedier parts of the Dutch capital in this fast-paced tale of prostitution, murder, human trafficking and police corruption. Amsterdam police detective, Henk van der Pol, is on the downhill run towards his retirement. During an early morning patrol, he discovers a woman's body floating in the Amsterdam harbour. Henk becomes overtly suspicious of the police investigation into the case, and is soon denied all access to information about the dead woman and the cause of her demise by his superiors. Fortunately, Henk is able to identify the tattoo on the corpse'Ž“s ankle before he is barred from the investigation. The tattoo directs him to Amsterdam'Ž“s underbelly, the red light district, where he uncovers an unhealthy relationship between the pimps, prostitutes, police and politicians. This discovery places Henk and his family in peril, and entails Henk fighting for their safety without the support of the local constabulary. The Harbour Master is a fast, tight and suspenseful read. The economical format of the novella demands the removal of all excess fodder from the narrative. The characters are swiftly introduced, developed and connected to the plot. Henks'Ž“ colleagues, both old and new, are smoothly incorporated, with dialogue and action congruous to the specific character and situation. The relationships linking Henk, his wife, and their daughter are flawlessly executed. A good example is the description of Henk's daughter, Nadia, receiving a surprise visit from her father at the café¸ she works in. Her discomfort, apparent in what she says and how her movements are described, makes the reader feel like an eye witness. Pembrey shows great skill as a crime fiction writer. His understanding and portrayal of people, places and situations is remarkable. The Harbour Master is a highly recommended addition to this popular literary genre. Buy this book Ana McGinley  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 >


Amsterdamming

Amsterdamming

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




Amsterdive

Amsterdive

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


Dutch Scoop

Dutch Scoop

Mary Petiet is an American writer and reporter. She is currently exploring all things Dutch as she adjusts to life in More >



Amsterfam

Amsterfam

Amsterfam charts the highs and lows of a British family in Amsterdam as they try to integrate into Dutch life. More >


European Mama

European Mama

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



New Explorers Guide to Dutch Digital Culture

The New Explorers Guide to Dutch Digital Culture is a combination phonebook and wiki for all things digital art and culture in the Netherlands. Virtueel Platform, a Dutch e-culture knowledge institute, has put together this comprehensive guide to the companies, institutes, and other organisations involved in the digital art and culture industry. Organised into three sections (Media Labs, Game Companies, and Media Festivals) the book compiles all the relevant information (contact details, dates, scope of work) into a hand guide. The index is especially useful for those in the creative community, which lists all of the companies and organisations by name, location, and industry. The book is visually appealing, using photos of many digital art projects to showcase the work of an organisation. The editors have also created some handy shortcuts, listing information such as the event date, likely users, and keywords associated with each group. Unfortunately, however, the text contains number of grammatical errors which can distract the reader from the content. As someone in the digital industry, I found the book useful and may even attend a few of the conferences mentioned. The book was funded, in part, by the foreign affairs ministry. Download this book Molly Quell www.mollyquell.com  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 >


Craving (Dorst)

Esther Gerritsen is an award winning author, playwright and columnist. Her acclaimed 2012 novel, Dorst, nominated for the prestigious Libris Literature Prize, Dioraphte Literary Award and Opzij Prize has been translated from its original Dutch and is now available under the English title Craving. Craving is about the interpersonal relationships that connect a dysfunctional family. The narrative revolves around Elisabeth and her daughter, Coco, who are reunited in domesticity by Elisabeth’s terminal illness and the end of Coco’s rental agreement. Awkward people The story opens with Elisabeth and Coco inadvertently seeing one another on opposing sides of the Overtoom in Amsterdam. Elisabeth takes the opportunity to clumsily reveal to her daughter some devastating news that she has been withholding from her family. After asking about Coco’s hair (to conceal her thought about Elisabeth’s weight gain), she reveals a bag of medications, blurts out that she is dying, and quickly departs the scene as Coco cycles away. Elisabeth is an awkward communicator. Her ex-husband suggests that her communication and relationship struggles are due to autism. Regardless of cause, Elisabeth’s prior conduct, especially during her daughter’s early childhood, resurface in her final days as Coco seeks explanations from her mother to settle her own disconcerting childhood memories. For a young woman, Coco is a calamity. She lacks the direction and decision-making skills required to attain life satisfaction. Her romantic relationship, with pseudo-father figure Hans, is coming to an end, throwing Coco into a negative spiral of attention seeking conduct fueled by alcohol and sex with strangers in pubic places. Additional characters include Wilbert (Elisabeth’s ex-husband), Miriam (married to Wilbert), Martin (Elisabeth’s employer and close friend), and Elisabeth’s hairdresser. Together these four characters give dimension to Elisabeth’s persona. While Wilbert and Miriam treat her as a damaged woman able to living independently yet incapable of parenting a child, Martin praises Elisabeth and is resolute in his support for her. The hairdresser maintains non-judgmental respect for his client and teeters on as a friend to Elisabeth. Appeal Craving is indubitably a Dutch novel but the narrative has universal appeal.  A central character dying of cancer is a common thread found in Dutch literature and film - especially compared to books and films from America or Britain. This may be connected to the ease the Dutch have in speaking about death, compared with English speaking cultures. Reliant on verbal exchanges and flashbacks, Craving is a tale of psychological tension tinged with black humor. The succinct dialogue is clever and easily conveys the discord between characters to the reader - a major feat achieved by both the author and translator. Highly recommended. Ana McGinley Buy this book  More >


At Home in Holland

A practical guide for all new arrivals, At Home in Holland has been published since 1963 by the American Women's Club of The Hague, a non-profit organization and registered Dutch charity. website  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 >


Confessions of a Dutch Reading Club

The title might not tickle your fancy but don't let that put you off. Confessions of a Dutch Reading Club is the work of first time author Patricia van Stratum who has penned an unusual tale about a group of middle-aged Dutch folk and surprisingly, it works. When the reading club members are asked by a controversial priest to keep a journal and write a piece for a commemorative 10th Anniversary Book, they set about the task with trepidation. As each man begins to jot down his thoughts and feelings, he lays bare some of the more colourful aspects to his character, not to mention exposing hidden fetishes, painful pasts and insecurities. Van Stratum does an excellent job of bringing the reading club members to life with her descriptive narrative, and despite none of the characters being very appealing, they are interesting by virtue of their peculiarities. Confessions of a Dutch Reading Club describes itself as: 'essential reading for anyone interested in the group behaviour of the middle-aged male, the sociology of an average Dutch town and the marks left by a rigorous Catholic education', but that's not strictly true. Because if you've lived among the Dutch, or in any small town, and if you've experienced the petty politics of any kind of local club then you could identify with, and enjoy reading this. So avoid the temptation to judge this book by its drab front cover because Confessions of a Dutch Reading Club is a well-written tale and a nosey peek at the foibles and eccentricities of the small town Dutch male. Buy this book Shelley Antscherl books@dutchnews.nl  More >


The Dutch and their Bikes

Books about Dutch biking culture continue to grow in popularity, with more titles appearing on the bookshelves each year. Four years ago, American photojournalist and long-term resident in the Netherlands, Shirley Agudo, published Bicycle Mania, receiving rave reviews from international readers. Continuing on this same theme, Agudo has recently released a new extended version of her first book, titled The Dutch and Their Bikes: Scenes from a Nation of Cyclists. This new coffee table book exhibits about 700 photographs of Dutch people cycling - an activity intrinsic in their everyday lives. The images are loosely arranged by theme: transportation, colours, weather, age, animals, and special occasions. The book opens with a section of well-researched facts about cycling in the Netherlands, including what happens to bikes parked in public spaces for long periods (that is, they are removed and taken to the Fietsdepot to await retrieval by their owners at a cost of ten euros, albeit 70% of these bikes remain unclaimed). By adding a short list of cycling innovations supported by both local and national government, Agudo emphasises the importance of cycling to the environment and economy of the Netherlands. Interspersed throughout the 352 pages of the book are comments from a broad range of people somehow involved in cycling culture in the Netherlands, including individuals working in various government officers, transport organizations, cycling bodies, bicycle manufacturing businesses, and online bike forums. Often information and views are repeated, providing reiteration of the benefits of cycling to both individual and community. The Dutch and Their Bikes is a gift to the tourism industry of the Netherlands. The photographs portray the Dutch people as a free-spirited (sometime nude, pages 294-297), environmentally conscious, sturdy population who know the simple joy of riding a bike, and have adopted it as their preferred mode of transport. Cycling is internationally recognised as an enjoyable as well as an environmentally-friendly activity. By identifying the bike as being integral to Dutch culture, Shirley Agudo has added another reason for visitors to come and experience what the Netherlands is about. Buy this book Ana McGinley books@dutchnews.nl  More >


The Dutch Maiden

Marente De Moor, born in 1972 is the daughter of writer Margriet de Moor and visual artist Heppe de Moor. She studied literature and Slavonic languages at University of Amsterdam, and after graduation, moved to Russia for 10 years. Her work as a columnist for De Groene Amsterdammer and Vrij Nederland, has been respectively collated and published as De Peterburgse Vertellingen and Kleine Vogel, Grote Man. Marente de Moor published her first novel, De Overtreder (translation: The Transgressor) in 2007. Her second, De Nederlandse Maagd (2010), sold over 70,000 copies and was awarded both the AKO Literatuurprijs (2011) and the EU Prize for Literature (2014). This prize winning novel, translated into English by David Doherty, was published by World Editions earlier in 2016 under the title The Dutch Maiden. The novel’s main character is Janna, an 18-year-old fencer, is sent from her home in Maastricht to the German town of Aachen, where she stays with Egon van Bötticher, a German aristocrat and fencing master, her father befriended during the first World War. Janna arrives in Germany in the summer of 1936, a period of disquietude with unresolved grievances leftover from WWI, and the laying of early groundwork for the political climate that would give birth to WWII. Numerous themes and storylines run through the novel and overlap in the lives of the main characters. Egon was rescued the Dutch soldiers during WWI and taken to a Dutch hospital to recover and be observed by Janna’s father, a doctor with a keen interest in medical science. This relationship does not sprout the roots of a friendship, yet the reason the men remain connected to one another two decades on, is one of the conundrums running through the narrative. Janna’s relationship with Egon, a disfigured older man who seems to prefer animals to humans, is also bewildering. Attraction to Egon, especially as Jana is in the constant company of the prepossessing identical twins, Fredreich and Siegbert, who are also her peers and fencing partners seems unlikely and is only barely explained by the author. In the larger picture, the narrative exposes the German negative attitude to the Dutch in comments made about Janna and her father. Friction within Germany is highlighted by the presence of Nazi-supported Heinz and some members of the Mensur congregation who gather at Egon’s estate to indulge in this forbidden fencing tradition that seeks to inflict physical injuries to evince courage. The Dutch Maiden has beautifully constructed chapters, which have been preserved in translation. The narrative promises to take the reader on a journey that will uncover and explain the characters and the reasons they do what they do.  These promises are quietly kept, and although this may disappoint some readers, it seems to be almost idiosyncratic trait of many esteemed Dutch authors. An interesting, recommended read. Buy this book Ana McGinley  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 >


Vicky Hampton’s Working Lunch

We are so happy that Vicky Hampton, our favourite Amsterdam foodie, has been branching out into other cities - her rundown of a weekend's eating in Rotterdam is enough to make us all head for the port city asap. Vicky is no food snob and assessments of what and where she is eating are both down to earth and honest. We've said it before... she's never let the DutchNews.nl crew down. Vicky has taken that same approach to lunch - cheap and cheerful lunch recipes for those who are sick of cheese sandwiches or can't stand another wilted salad at the staff canteen. Soups and smoothies, delicious toasted sandwiches - surely every Dutch company office has a toastie maker - and a great selection of simple salads. If your staff kitchen has a kettle and enough space to fit a chopping board, this is the book for you. You can buy Vicky Hampton's Working Lunch via the website bookshop or from online bookstores.  More >