Reviewed by Anouschka van Leeuwen
Forgive me for never having heard of Vendela Vida! After some searching I found out she has already written three other well-received novels, and is married to none other than Dave Eggers. The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty has been a short but pleasant read, and has made me curious about Vida’s other work.
Interestingly, the story is told in second person, as if the narrator is telling her own story to herself (“You stepped into the hotel”). For me this was alienating at first, but later seemed only fitting. The story is about the series of events during what was supposed to be a relaxing vacation for the main character. The book is a retelling of what happened, in which the narrator tries to make sense of where she went wrong. In this sense, the second person perspective adds to the feeling of being the character, reliving the tale. The descriptions are accompanied by side comments (“Later you realize this was your first mistake”) that make you curious about what will happen next. Because of a coincidental chain of events, the main character keeps changing her appearance and identity. This leads to reflections about life and identity in a broader sense.
The narration includes minuscule details about each action the main character undertakes, written in relatively simple sentences. The danger of this book is therefore that you will run through the pages, waiting for the actual story to start. Halfway through the book, I realized this was the main story, and that I should slow down and enjoy it while it lasted. The events the main character experiences vary from tragic, to funny, to bizarre, but I never lost interest and somehow this mix of genres did not bother me. I think the best thing to do is to just go along with this book without any expectations, and to let it surprise you.
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There is an e-book of The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty available here.