THE BIG WARD by Jacoba van Velde


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A comfortless if unquestionably moving first novel has been translated from the Dutch (it had a prize-winning award there) and it deals with a few weeks in the now terminal life of Geertruida van der Veen, from the time when she wakes up in a ward of a nursing home. For Geertruida, at 74, the best of life is certainly not yet to come; she is widowed, her daughter, Helena, now with her, lives in Paris; and she had had a second stroke which makes impossible any thought of return to her small apartment. Her belongings, the paraphernalia of the past, will be sold to pay for her entry into the home, and there is the finality of her separation with Helena and the gentle, but empty, reassurances each makes. And while her body fails her- her mind is implacably clear and aware of her severance from the world now, her apprehension of what is to come... Infirmity and death provide a disconsolate vista which few may care to contemplate- but it is handled here with an admirable simplicity and an unspoken compassion which to some extent subdues the austerity of the subject.

Pub Date: May 19th, 1960
Publisher: Simon & Schuster