Helmer's social world is limited: apart from his father, there are the tanker drivers who collect the milk every day, the livestock dealer he sells to, and the inquisitive woman on the farm next door and her two children. So it is quite a change when his brother's one-time fiancée visits and then sends her son, in his late teens, to live with him. And then a farmhand who befriended Helmer forty years ago also reappears.
The Twin contrasts youth and old age, life and death, stability and change, memory and experience. It has some overtly symbolic elements — most obviously a hooded crow that keeps appearing — and some coincidences, with first Riet and then Jaap appearing just as Helmer's life reaches critical points. But none of this is forced or unnatural.
The simple, spare prose of its first-person narration matches Helmer's quiet and unassuming personality; both have hidden depths. The other characters are nicely sketched and the dialogue seems perfectly pitched. There's also a strong sense of time and place in the seasonal and daily rhythms of a little farm next to a canal leading into the IJsselmeer.
The Twin is a powerful but understated novel, a gentle but moving study of a life.
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