Firstly, Tessa De Loo’s prose reads much more fluently in its original Dutch than it does in translation. That is not her fault. That she is represented, in England, by such a work is not the fault of her publishers either. They have done well to bring her to this country, probably in the hope that they will be able to expand her ‘list’ here, as they have done with their Arabia Books titles. Her publishers, The Armchair Traveller at the bookHaus, have some excellent titles in their catalogue. Their Makers of The Modern World series is to be especially recommended. That they sent a less worthy title for review ought not to obscure the fact that they provide a niche service to be proud of.
Much more worthy of the readers’ attention is the accompanying title, The Book of Doubt/ Harlekino. A tale of discovery through the eyes of a young man whose father was a migrant. Saeed goes to his paternal country and there, begins a journey that could be a fable for many in the modern world. De Loo handles her characters carefully and draws the reader gently into their world of imagination and reality.
So, if you buy either book, and enjoy it: their publication will have served a purpose. If, as I did, you find Byron awkward and a bit ‘gauche’, ask yourselves why a perfectly competent novelist, who has quality books to her credit, has to be introduced to an English public through work that requires the ‘name’ of a second rate Scots poet, writing in English, to sell it?
Tessa de Loo will be at the launch of In Byron’s Footsteps at Daunt Books, 83 Marylebone High Street, London W1U 4QW on Wednesday 30 March from 6.30pm to 8.00pm.