The Storm, by Margriet de Moor

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Four stars, read in July 2018.

I picked up this book for my first stop on the Reader’s Room Backpacking Across Europe Summer Reading Challenge, as I flew into the Amsterdam airport. I don’t tend to read disaster stories, so I probably wouldn’t have chosen this book if Utah public libraries had a better selection of translated fiction (side complaint: there is very little I miss about Texas, but the diversity of the DFW Metroplex is a big one. Only in beginning this challenge did I realize how much harder my reading is going to be in MormonLand). But I’m quite glad this is the book I ended up with, as it was unlike anything I’ve read before, in both style and substance.

At the end of January 1953, a major storm flooded the North Sea. More than 1800 people were killed in the Netherlands (as well as about 300 in England and at least 200 at sea) as hundreds of thousands of acres were suddenly underwater.

 

This book begins on January 31, hours before the storm hit. It’s the story of Lidy and Armanda, sisters whose lives are permanently separated—and, in a way, permanently merged—on that day.

Funnily enough, since the Reader’s Room challenge is about travel (and has certain rules that sparked extensive conversation about ferries), this book begins with a trip that includes several ferry rides. De Moor names many locations specifically, so I was able to follow along and chart what I think may actually be the exact route.

 

I can’t actually describe the book very well, which is something I’m realizing now that I’m attempting to do it. It follows both sisters approximately equally, though one timeline ends up covering several decades and the other only one day. It’s full of logistical detail that I’m sure many people would find superfluous, but even as I sometimes found it tedious, I never questioned its inclusion in the book. Maybe it’s because one of the things you can’t help realizing, as you follow the Brouwer sisters’ stories, is how the most desperately mundane facts—like changes in the air pressure northwest of Scotland—can completely subsume our lives.

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