Quotes & reviews

Summer Brother

‘A deeply humane novel centred on a disabled man, his heroic younger brother and an unreliable, partly criminal father living on an all but derelict site. The book is generous to all its flawed characters, is beautifully written and humanises lives of abject poverty on the edge of squalor and disaster.’  International Booker Prize 2021

‘Robben is wonderful at drawing characters with just a few deliberate strokes. One standout description comes in a passing reference to Maurice’s mother: “In my memory, smoke came out of her mouth even when she didn’t have a cigarette between her lips. There was always something smoldering inside her.

Most fascinating to Robben, however, are the prickly relationships between men, which oscillate between moments of tenderness and brutality before reaching a painful climax. Robben depictsmen who regularly cycle between carelessness, cruelty and compassion, which makes Brian’s ultimate rank-breaking toward benevolence all the more uplifting.

Like a photographer shooting a portrait, Robben captures his subjects in “Summer Brother” in a focused close-up. It’s intimate, even claustrophobic at times, just as life must be for an isolated boy like Brian, looking with wonder to the lights on the hill.’  The New York Times

‘In this thoughtful, empathetic Dutch novel, a 13-year-old boy struggles to care for his disabled brother.(…) A sensitive yet unsentimental depiction of poverty and disability from the perspective of an abled character.’  Kirkus Reviews

‘The book’s language is precise and forthright as Brian observes, and portrays in stark terms, the intense, awkward, and lovely actions of those around him. Sharp exchanges reveal characters who are witty and earnest in equal measure. Summer Brother is a harrowing novel about dysfunctional family dynamics and the universal awkwardness of being a teenager.’ Foreword Reviews

‘Robben’s style is deceptively simple. You don’t have to be an adult to read Summer Brother, yet Robben’s imagery, subtle humour and surprising plot will connect with the most literate of readers. The novel gives a moving insight into a boyhood that gives pause for reflection.’ De Standaard

‘Form and content come together beautifully in a gripping tale of trust, betrayal, solidarity and adolescence.’ De Limburger

“Refined and subtle, and at the same time one of the most striking voices in contemporary Dutch literature” Lize Spit

‘Subtle and refined.’ NRC Handelsblad

‘A writer who crosses the ball with such elegance that there’s no need to hammer it home.’ De Volkskrant

Lovingly, Robben shows Brian’s hapless attempts to deal with pills and full diapers, yet all the while he is working mercilessly towards the inevitable climax.’ VPRO Gids

‘A truly gutsy novel.’ Tzum

‘Robben is an excellent writer.’  Nederlands Dagblad

‘Summer Brother is a beautiful, modest novel. As he did with Birk, Robben will once again win over a young generation of readers with this book. That in itself is praiseworthy.’  Elsevier

‘Jaap Robben has once again written an overwhelming book.’ HMC Dagbladen

‘Like no other writer, Robben can empathize with the mind of a child and he imbues the reader with this open and uninhibited outlook as the story unfolds.’  Hebban.nl

‘Summer Brother is a wry and funny book about a damaged family.’  Algemeen Dagblad

‘His first novel Birk was well received, won prizes and became a sales success. Summer Brother is a worthy successor and had all the ingredients to follow the same path. (…) Robben knows how to write simply and magnificiently – I kept underlining beautiful sentences in the first chapters.’ Trouw

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