“The Ditch” is a complex story about life, family, different cultures, love, revenge, aging, illness and the intersection of it all.
The story revolves around “Robert”, the mayor of Amsterdam and his wife “Sylvia”. Robert is the narrator and the names are aliases, because the real names “would only confuse things. People make all kinds of assumptions when it comes to names.” Robert is from Holland and Sylvia is from a different unnamed country and her physical appearance makes it clear that she is not from Holland. They have a daughter “Diana”.
During a reception, Robert observes Sylvia talking and laughing with Alderman Martens Van Hoogstraten. Robert becomes obsessed, based solely on that one event, that Sylvia and the Alderman are having a romantic relationship. If Sylvia is acting normal, that is suspicious. “…it was precisely the absence of any visible sign or signal that should confirm my worst suspicions. The completely normal way my wife was acting…could be a deliberate tactic.” “They were acting like nothing was going on which meant something was going on.” Of course, when Sylvia is acting peculiar, that is suspicious.
Robert thinks back on when he met Sylvia. He was young and traveling with his brilliant and handsome friend, Barnhard Langer. Barnhard was the most brilliant Dutch physicist and astronomer of his generation. While traveling, the most beautiful women would choose Barnhard. However, when they were traveling in Sylvia’s country, Robert met Sylvia when Barnhard was not around. Throughout the book Robert wonders whether Sylvia would have chosen Barnhard had she seen him first.
After Robert and Sylvia are married in Sylvia’s country, Robert climbs through the dry ditch to look out over the countryside. Sylvia’s brother comes with him and warns him of what will happen if Robert ever hurts Sylvia.
Barnhard shows up in various parts of the book and ponders the meaning of life and the world. These interludes are fascinating and thought provoking. Robert’s parents, in their 90s, are also an ever present part of the story. His father is a little nutty and they are pondering suicide to avoid aging. I will leave this part of the story line to you for your reading pleasure.
Sylvia’s brother shows up to visit and suddenly Sylvia and her brother disappear and the Alderman suffers an unfortunate accident. The book ends with Robert living with Sylvia in her country. I have to admit that there are parts of the book that I just don’t understand and parts that are just downright peculiar. That said, I still enjoyed the book but it is definitely different. You can reserve the book at the Cuyahoga County Public Library by clicking here.