Every now and then, a novel comes along and completely takes you by surprise. Roxy was one of those. After agreeing to review it largely because my too-read pile had dwindled down to nothing and the blurb had the words ‘revenge’ and ‘grief’ in it (yes, I’m a miserable git), I had absolute no expectations other than that this book was likely to fit into my unrelenting thirst for dark and emotional fiction. I had never heard of author Esther Gerritsen, either, but was encouraged by her success in the Netherlands and the fact that her works seem to be getting translated more widely with each release. The last time I randomly took on a Dutch author from the Bookmunch review list, I was introduced to the amazing Dimitri Verhulst. The signs were good.
But nothing prepared me for the almost immediate emotional connection that Roxy engenders. The story of a young woman called Roxy (obviously) who is awoken by police at the door letting her know that her older husband has died in a car crash, this tale goes straight for the jugular from the very first page. Gerritsen does an amazing job of putting the reader into Roxy’s position. With her sparse, involving prose she makes you feel every emotion. And as the shocks keep coming in the early part of the novel, as we learn that her husband was not alone in the car, you continue to feel every punch.
While it may have been the promise of misery that first attracted me to the book, though, it is largely the wit and humour that make this such a powerful read. As a small cast of characters tries to support Roxy through the tragedy, we see a steady unravelling that is perfectly poised to make you laugh while also sympathising with every sting. Roxy’s relationship with her daughter, her affair with an undertaker, and her puzzling reactions to almost everything, manage to be both comedic and totally devastating. And all this is before a climatic section that is so surprising but also completely inevitable. This is writing of the highest order.
Any Cop?: I can’t think of many books I have related to on this level in the last few years. As cliched as it is to say, it made me laugh, it made me cry, and it made me think. Most of all, though, it made me want sit down and write. It made me want to be able to do the things that Gerritsen can do with words. A fantastic cast of characters, a simple but devastating situation, and a lead protagonist that is so flawed that you can’t help but fall in love with her. I may be writing this review on 1 Jan 2020, but I am already looking at a contender for my book of the year.