Though I have only visited Amsterdam (as well as a few other places in The Netherlands--Rotterdam, The Hague and Delfzijl) in the pages of books, I am sure it is a place I could happily and easily feel at home. Now that I have gotten a very small taste of place and the culture I know I must visit it someday. What happiness-the idea of being in a city that appreciates people who cycle and walk! Thanks to Cath, I have had some lovely visuals to supplement my reading. She kindly sent along a city map (I love maps) as well as a 'what's on' guide to the city for the summer, which I most enviously enjoyed perusing and reading. While August is quickly slipping into September and the events listed (museum exhibits alone fill two pages--oh my, theatre listings a page and a half, and how many cities can boast a 'street food tour'!) will move on to more autumn-like attractions (if Park Life is very summerish, I wonder what is on for fall?), I will be holding on to my A-Mag for quite some time and fantasizing over what I could be doing if I lived somewhere more exciting.
I didn't read everything I had hoped to read (I never do, though), I am very satisfied with how well my Reading The Netherlands project went. I have a really excellent list of potential reads by Dutch authors and books with Dutch settings. As I knew I was nearing the end of my project I decided to whittle down my in progress books (still in the hope of tidying things up by the end the year). As I had barely started a couple that landed on my reading pile I have shifted them back to the TBR piles for later. I am however, still working on The Apothecary's House by Adrian Mathews and Inevitable by Louis Couperus. I am far enough in both that I have invested time and interest in the plot and characters and want to know how things are going to turn out in both cases.
I wanted to wrap things up tidily however, so here's a little rundown of where I've been (without ever leaving Omaha!).
I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know detectives Grijpstra and De Gier in Amsterdam Cops: Collected Stories. I will certainly be reading more of their adventures. Had I not already been in the middle of a number of other mysteries the first proper mystery in the series would have remained on my reading pile.
Dmitri Verhulst was born in Belgium but is part of the Dutch speaking popularion. Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill is a lovely novella with a lot of magical elements.
It's easy to see why Simone van der Vlugt is called "Holland's Queen of Crime". Shadow Sister is a tense, suspenseful story with just the right mixture of atmosphere, edginess, and surprise. I still have one unread book by her on my stack and look forward to picking it up soon.
And for a little crime French-style, but with lots of feel for Dutch psychology and a wonderfully descriptive setting Georges Simenon's Maigret in Holland was another excellent read.
The highlight, however, was reading Louis Couperus's Eline Vere. It's a coup for me as I have had such a hard time with chunky books and a classic novel as well. It never once felt like an 'uphill' sort of read and while it was in many ways a tragic story, it was also a wholly satisfying and a pleaure from start to finish. It's easily one of my best reads all year.
Another highlight and perhaps a reason I was able to stay on task so well (when other projects have fallen by the wayside) was Cath's series of guest posts. Although Cath does not blog she has been a long time visitor here and elsewhere in the book blogosphere and I have always enjoyed our chats. I have met so many wonderful people online and she is someone I am happy to call friend. If you missed her posts, she wrote four on various aspects of Dutch Literature: First Lines, The Poetry of Robert Kopland, A Silent Room, and just this weekend Living in a Language.
I wish I would have had more visuals to share, but I did scan a number of postcards I have received in the mail. Had I planned better I would have investigated Dutch art a bit, but I hope to revamp this project again next summer.
I'm finishing out the weekend with Paul Verhoeven's 1977 film starring Rutger Hauer, Soldier of Orange. It is based on true events about a group of university students resisting the Nazis during WWII. It's an excellent film, but a long one. I watched the first half a week or so ago and am off to watch the second half as soon as I hit the 'save and publish' button. Next time around I will definitely look for more films to watch.
I am wrapping things up just at the right time. I started my project just after Memorial Day and am ending it just before Labor Day. Summer will soon turn to fall (hot, muggy weather can please now exit stage left) with leaves turning and hopefully a nice crisp tingle in the air, and maybe an aroma of cinnamon and pumpkin spice wafting in from the kitchen. Now I will be working on my list of books for Carl's RIP IX (I already have a stack waiting to be sorted through . . . ) and my attention will be on class reading in particular.
Maybe next year I will try, too, to pick up a few Dutch words and phrases. But for now, Tot ziens.