Three insecure souls spend a weekend in Amsterdam grappling with family problems; the eighth novel from this Northern Irish writer (The Truth Commissioner, 2008, etc.).
All three are natives of Belfast. Some brief encounters aside, they move on separate tracks. Alan is a middle-aged teacher at an art college. A visit to Amsterdam in his youth proved liberating. Now, he is returning for a Dylan concert, his 16-year-old son, Jack, in tow (Alan is recently divorced). Karen is a cleaning lady. This is her first time outside Ulster. She’s part of a hen party celebrating her daughter Shannon’s forthcoming wedding. Marion has come with her husband, Richard. They’re the middle-aged owners of a successful nursery business and Christmas-tree farm. The trip is Richard’s birthday treat for her, along with a gym membership. Is he telling her to get in shape? Deeply insecure and suspecting he’s about to cheat on her, Marion sends a hooker to their hotel room to give him a more exciting outlet. Never mind that her plan defies marital psychology and common sense. As for Karen, she’s been insecure since being dumped by her boyfriend when she was three months pregnant, some 20 years before. Only in Amsterdam does she find out by chance that her daughter has invited that nefarious ex to give her away; the news revives all her bitterness and self-pity. There’s no equivalent drama for Alan. Memories keep dragging the principals back into their pasts, and Amsterdam has no transformative effect on them.
Dreary people in a vibrant city.