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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Nine Open Arms
by Benny Lindelauf
Age Range: 12+
Nine Open Arms stands half hidden behind trees and shrubs at the end of an isolated road called Sjammbams Sahara outside a small village in Holland. The walls have been whitewashed and the wooden floor is bare, as if the house has been waiting. Waiting for someone to move in.
It is the summer of 1937, and it hasn’t rained for seven weeks when eleven-year-old Fing and her family of nine move into Nine Open Arms, along with their handcart of meagre belongings. ‘The Dad’ is a man who does all kinds of jobs and none of them well, his latest venture is setting up a cigar making business, while Oma Mei, their grandmother, courageously holds everything together, including the family’s history in her Crocodile bag full of pictures and stories. The new business does not quite go according to plan and as the year progresses, the family just gets poorer.
Fing and her two sisters, Muulke and Jess begin to discover ‘tragical tragedies’, as Muulke describes them – a bed that looks like a tombstone, an unmarked grave in the cemetery and a hedge that conceals the home of the eccentric Hatsi
Award-winning Dutch author Benny Lindelauf has woven a multi-layered novel; mixing past and present as it moves back and forth in time between the 1930s and 1860s. Gradually the stories of those whose lives were connected with Nine Open Arms are unravelled with some surprising twists and turns. John Nieuwehnuizen's excellent translation flows effortlessly and from the first page the reader is immersed in the stories of the house that holds so many secrets.
At the back of the book there is a useful translator’s note, character list, slang word list, map and contents.