The Book of Everything- Guus Kuijer   Leave a comment


This short book was translated from the dutch children’s novel, which won the Gouden Griffel award in 2005

At just over 100 pages, this took me just over 1 hour to read, but it completely captured my interest.

The reader is transported to post war Amsterdam, and introduced to the world of  Thomas, who is writing a book, called ‘The book of everything’ where he writes everything down that happens to him, and professes his ambition is to ‘be happy’.  He is 9, a very sensitive boy, who sees things which other people would not notice.

He makes the aquaintance of his neighbour, a known witch, Mrs Van Amersfoot and she introduces him to books and challenges him to look beyond his own fear. It soon becomes apparent that the neighbour is fully aware of the abuse which is going on next door to her. Thomas’ father is beating both the mother and the children in the name of his narrow religious views. It is also inferred that Thomas’ father was a Nazi sympathiser during the war, and is finding life difficult to adjust to. There is a suggestion that he is afraid he will be arrested, in the repercussions which are still going on.

Kuijer accurately describes the fear driven world of this tortured man, who is completely bound by his own beliefs and rules. His overbearing attitude of faith, and view of the world has completely collapsed and he is terrified for his own family, as he sees it imploding before his eyes.

The book is written in a very simple and child friendly way, so it is easy to follow, but is a very good portrayal of a family in crisis, living with an abusive father and instinctively becoming compliant to his tirades. a great book for children to read if they wish to work through their issues, or understand a dysfunctional family of this type.

The novel is more of a fable, in that everything is resolved in the end, but the message is there to fight back, not to give in to fear. Kindness is seen to be victorious over cruelty; joy and beauty over meaningless rules.

well worth a read


Posted February 5, 2013 by dianne7 in book review

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