I read somewhere that This Is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn is the only book in the Dance sequence that has a female protagonist and now I don't think that's true, because Geertrui is clearly the protagonist of this book. She is the one who is preparing a manuscript for a single person to whom she is trying to express her story. That the person to whom she is addressing her story is also the protagonist of his own narrative written in the third person which occupies what I estimate as at least 50% of the page count is merely one of the ways in which Postcards
is different from the other Dance books I have read thus far. Geertrui prefigures some events that will become part of Cordelia's story, as well: her thoughtful and delibrate choice to become sexually active, her unplanned pregnancy, and an unexpected death, although here it is not hers, but her partner's.
I really like how the Dutch of the native speakers is integrated into their English -- sometimes groping for a translation for a peculiarly Dutch word or idiom, sometimes just fumbling for a bit of vocabulary. This is very tricky to do right.
Like Jan in The Toll Bridge, Jacob experiences a frisson of homoerotic attraction at the beginning of the book but then in practice proves to be either entirely or mostly straight. I think this works as a positive portrayal of a questioning character, especially since, unlike in Bridge
, there are other queer people in happy consummated relationships: Ton, who is gay, presents as more than a little genderqueer, and is happily in a relationship with Daan, who is both bisexual and polyamorous. The only thing I don't completely love about the matter-of-fact presentation of their relationship is that Daan's female partner gets short shrift and no page time.
This book has several elements that may have made it more of an award-friendly breakout than the other Dance books: the WWII theme and particularly the intertextuality with the oft-assigned Anne Frank's diary, the inclusion of assisted suicide, that perennial high school debate or persuasive essay topic.