PODCAST

Episode 376: The Pride Episode With Yael van der Wouden

BY MEGAN LABRISE • June 11, 2024

On the Pride Episode, we celebrate novelist Yael van der Wouden’s shining debut.

Yael van der Wouden joins us to discuss The Safekeep (Avid Reader Press, May 28) on our third annual Pride Episode, boldly honoring exquisite books by LGBTQ+ authors, illustrators, and translators.

Van der Wouden is a writer and teacher based in Utrecht, the Netherlands. In her delectable debut novel, set in the Dutch countryside in the 1960s, a serious woman who lives alone in her childhood home is coerced into letting her older brother’s seemingly frivolous fiancé stay with her for several weeks. Things get sultry in this standout novel that Kirkus calls “a brilliant debut, as multifaceted as a gem.”

Here’s a bit more from our starred review: “Van der Wouden’s brilliant debut novel opens in 1961 in the Netherlands; World War II has ended, but the trauma of the war years is etched as deeply into the Dutch landscape as are the craters left by actual bombs. Isabel has become a caretaker for the old house she and her siblings grew up in. She spends her isolated days in regimented fashion, polishing silver and visiting the post office. ‘She belonged to the house in the sense that she had nothing else, no other life than the house,’ van der Wouden writes. Isabel’s routine—and, eventually, everything she thought she knew about herself and her family—is disrupted when Eva comes to spend a few weeks with her while Louis is away for work. Even van der Wouden’s spare prose gives way to the lush mystery Eva carries with her: ‘How quickly did the belly of despair turn itself over into hope, the give of the skin of overripe fruit.’ This is a beautifully realized book, nearly perfect, as van der Wouden quietly explores the intricate nuances of resentment-hued sibling dynamics, the discovery of desire (and the simultaneous discovery of self), queer relationships at a time when they went unspoken, and the legacy of war and what it might mean to have been complicit in its horrors.”

In conversation, I tell van der Wouden that The Safekeep is so assured, it’s hard to believe it's a debut novel. She says she has, indeed, written others, but The Safekeep is the first to be published. We talk about the novel’s protagonist, Isabel, and her siblings Louis and Hendrik, then pivot to a discussion of the Netherlands, the Netherlands’ response to World War II, and Nina Siegal’s The Diary Keepers. We talk about how to characterize The Safekeep (mystery? romance?) and van der Wouden’s use of italicization throughout. We discuss the characteristics of queer conversation, whether she’s a planner or a pantser, and her hope for the book.

Then editors Laura Simeon, Mahnaz Dar, and Eric Liebetrau share their top picks in books for the week.

 

EDITORS’ PRIDE PICKS:

Dear Wendy by Ann Zhao (Feiwel & Friends)

Winnie Nash Is Not Your Sunshine by Nicole Melleby (Algonquin)

The House of Hidden Meanings: A Memoir by RuPaul (Dey Street/HarperCollins)

How It Works Out by Myriam Lacroix (Overlook)

 

THANKS TO OUR SPONSORS:

Empire Asunder by Michael Jason Brandt

Inflamed: Abandonment, Heroism, and Outrage in Wine Country’s Deadliest Firestorm by Anne E. Belden &Paul

The Right Thing To Do: The True Pioneers of College Football Integration in the 1960s by Tom Shanahan

Elizabeth’s Mountain by Lucille Guarino

Grandma, Don’t Forget How Much I Love You by Linda A. Gerdner &Jacqueline A. Witter, illus. by Amy Bunnell Jones

 

Fully Booked is produced by Cabel Adkins Audio and Megan Labrise.

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