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Riek Landman. De striid fan Marte.

Riek Landman. De striid fan Marte. Ljouwert, Netherlands. Friese Pers. 2005. 256 pages. 17.50 [euro]. ISBN 90-330-0520-4

DE STRIID FAN MARTE (Marte's inner conflict) is part 2 of the trilogy that chronicles three generations of women: grandmother, daughter, and granddaughter. It is a continuation of the story begun with Jentsje Brouwer (De tiid fan Jenstje), who lived from 1885 to 2967. Jentsje had a daughter named Marte, born in 1919, the subject of this novel.

Marte is only fifteen when she meets a superconfident and brash young man who proves irresistible. The young adolescent falls hopelessly in love. They marry and soon have children. But World War II breaks out, and, unknown to Marte, her Simon becomes deeply and dangerously involved with the resistance movement in Friesland. Since it is unsafe to stay in their home now, Marte and the two children go into hiding on a small farm in the countryside. They seldom see Simon and then only by stealth. But at war's end, the family reunites, and they try to resume a normal life. But Simon has changed. He has lost close buddies to the enemy. He's been much in demand as an interpreter because of his English expertise. Life in wartime has been marked by tragedy, tension, and constant stimulation. Back in ordinary life, he is restless and continually hungry for the challenge of new adventure. He finds it in travel, in wild business ventures, and in motorcycling, often to Marte's displeasure. It is the motorcycle that kills him when he hits a tree.

Now it is Marte who changes. She had lived for Simon, the love of her life, even when that love was sometimes strained. Now she buries her emotions while dealing with the practical matters of making a living. Afraid of the depth and power of her feelings and conflicted about her loyalty to Simon, she rebuffs Rommert, the farmer who hid her family in wartime and with whom she discovers a mutual attraction.

Instead, after the death of her mother, Jentsje, she decides to pull up stakes and follow her domineering, manipulative, yet romantically nonthreatening boarder to France. Though she enjoys the adventure of it all, she soon discovers that life with Hylkema is intolerable. She returns to Friesland, to her grandchildren, and to her old childhood home--and to Rommert. Her feelings for Rommert, which she has tried to keep in control for so long, now push irresistibly to the surface and joyfully yield to Rommert's quiet charm. Like her mother before her, Marte finds love again in old age.

The constant time shifts threaten a sense of the novel's chronological continuity. However, the unifying theme of relationships-mitigates the somewhat episodic nature of De striid fan Marte. For this book of generational connections is all about relationships: Marte and mother Jentsje, Marte and daughter Janna, Marte and the men in her life and her conflicted feelings about each of them. Remarkably, given its time in history, the story is devoid of a religious dimension. Neither the characters nor the surrounding community exhibit any Christian considerations when, for much of the time, the church dominated their physical and moral landscape. However, De striid fan Marte does offer the reader another authentic slice of war-torn times and cultural shifts. And it does so while continuing to engage the reader fully in the life and character of its women.

Henry J. Baron

Calvin College
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Author:Baron, Henry J.
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 1, 2006
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