It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour The Homecoming by Anna Enquist, translated by Eileen Stevens.
About the Author
Anna Enquist studied piano at the academy of music in The Hague and psychology at Leiden University. She is the author of the novels The Masterpiece; The Secret, winner of the 1997 Dutch Book of the Year awarded by the public; The Ice Carriers; Counterpoint; Quartet; and the international bestseller The Homecoming, which received the Prix du Livre Corderie Royale-Hermione for its French translation.
Anna is also the author of A Leap, a collection of dramatic monologues, as well as numerous poetry collections, including Soldiers’ Songs, for which she was awarded the C. Buddingh’ Prize; A New Goodbye; and Hunting Scenes, winner of the Lucy B. and C.W. van der Hoogt Prize.
About the Translator – Eileen Stevens
Eileen Stevens earned her MA in linguistics with a specialization in translation from the University of Amsterdam. Her many Dutch-to-English translation credits include Connie Palmen’s Your Story, My Story; Karin Schacknat’s In and Out of Fashion; Vera Mertens’s The Concentration Camp; and Ineke van Doorn’s Singing from the Inside Out. She has also translated numerous essays on classical music and the arts. A New Jersey native, Eileen spent twenty-five years working as a professional violinist in a Dutch orchestra and has lived in Amsterdam since 1990.
About the book
After twelve years of marriage to English explorer James Cook, Elizabeth has yet to spend an entire year with her husband. In their house by the Thames, she moves to the rhythms of her life as a society wife, but there is so much more to her than meets the eye. She has the strength to manage the house and garden, raise their children, and face unbearable sorrow alone.
As she prepares for another homecoming, Elizabeth looks forward to James’s triumphant return and the work she will undertake reading and editing his voluminous journals. But will the private life she’s been leading in his absence distract her from her role in aid of her husband’s grand ambitions? Can James find the compassion to support her as their family faces unimaginable loss, or must she endure life alone as he sails off toward another adventure?
An intimate and sharply observed novel, The Homecoming is as revelatory as James Cook’s exploration of distant frontiers and as richly rewarding as Elizabeth’s love for her family. With courage and strength, through recollection and imagination, author Anna Enquist brilliantly narrates Elizabeth’s compelling record of her life, painting a psychological portrait of an independent woman ahead of her time.
It’s always fascinating to read about the women behind important historical figures. The people who remain anonymous, invisible and because of that they disappear into the folds of history books and archives. The importance of their roles is underrated and often never told. Putting that into perspective, who doesn’t know about James Cook, and who in turn knows anything about his wife Elizabeth.
We meet Elizabeth as she is preparing for her husband to return to her once again. Not unlike modern military wives, she is the glue that holds the family and home together, awaiting the man who is little more than a distant love. They have spent little time together for the duration of their marriage – his endeavours, tasks and adventures always come first.
She carries the weight of grief alone, the unusual existence of being the wife of an early version of a celebrity. It’s no wonder that the two of them have little common ground when he finally and reluctantly returns home. The feet they itcheth to be waterborne once more.
The subtle combination of historical fact, imagined dialogue, actual excerpts of letters and journals with a smidgen of faction thrown in to compliment the tale. It’s also a lovely homage to the woman behind the man.
I always appreciate a good translation, which when done well leaves no lasting impression of having been translated, and captures the true essence, the nuances and voice of the author. Kudos to Stevens for that, and to Enquist for the fascinating read.