Book report ‘Dryocopus’ by Owen Donkers
The novel is about a young writer from the Netherlands who moves to France with his wife Pauline, where he wants to devote himself completely to writing. Once in France, he finds out that he has little to say. Instead, he throws himself into his newfound passion, studying birds, and takes French lessons. His wife is often away from home for her work and the relationship with his French teacher is becoming increasingly intimate. Fortunately, he gets an idea for an essay that he is working on with new energy. But one day when he takes his teacher’s child to a fortress in the woods, catastrophe seems inevitable.
Book report contents
- General information
- Summary Dryocopus
- Symbols and motifs
- Title statement Dryocopus
- Place, time and perspective
- About Owen Donkers
- Title: Dryocopus
- Author: Owen Donkers
- Date of Birth: 1977
- First edition: 2018
- Publisher: Thomas Rap
- Cover illustration: Michiel Stolp
- Number of pages: 144
- ISBN: 978 94 004 0505 9
The writer on a bird’s-eye path
The story revolves around the I person (his name is not mentioned in the book) who lies injured in the forest at the beginning of the book and relives his life as a movie.
The I person is a young writer who already has two books to his name and who wants to devote himself entirely to writing in France. His third book is about to be released, he just needs to make some corrections and then it’s ready to go to print. Plenty of time for a new book, but once in France he realizes that he has little to say. Instead, he buys a bird guide and goes out to see some birds. It becomes his new passion and actually it is also a flight.
The writer is married to Pauline who has to commute from Metz to Saarbrücken for her work. Shortly before Pauline and the first person moved to France, they had been in America for a few months and the writer had started learning French. His interest in birds was also awakened there. When he wakes up in the morning his wife is already gone and because she works a lot,
when they come home at eight in the evening and sometimes also work on Saturdays, they see each other very little. Sunday remains for the couple, but Pauline needs the Sunday afternoon to sleep.
The holidays in France
As a child, the writer always came to France, the family always visited the same campsite on a river and near an impenetrable forest where he befriended Michel. One day during the vacation the me person bought a sword and made his way through the forest. A dangerous expedition because, according to his friend Michel, there were wild boars in the forest that could attack people.
The French class
The writer takes French lessons, he finds the French language difficult to speak, and his social life is also limited. He takes the classes with an American woman, who is a fellow traveler with Pauline. His wish is to speak French with someone who speaks fluent French, he does the latter with his teacher when he walks home with her. When his American fellow student stops taking the lessons, the I-person receives private lessons from Céleste, the teacher. He comes to her house for this. Céleste lives with her seven-year-old son Denis. The writer goes out with her son, takes him to a toy store and makes an appointment to go to a fortress in the woods with Denis. Celeste wants to make love to him but he can’t, Pauline is his haven, the center of his existence, other women don’t count to him.
When Michael Jackson dies that year, the writer suddenly gets an idea for a new book, a musical monograph. An essay instead of a novel. He is working on his essay and one day goes to the fortress with Denis. Then disaster strikes, the I person is attacked by wild boars, animals that Michel had warned him about at the time. He is injured in his leg and in his back. The writer sends Denis to seek help, meanwhile his health deteriorates, he is losing more and more blood and his thoughts become incoherent. A catastrophe seems inevitable but is not filled in, the end of the book is therefore an open ending.
The book is told from the I person. We see all characters through his eyes. The other persons are Pauline, the French teacher with her son and a supporting role for the American woman with whom the writer initially goes to French lessons.
Symbols and motifs
Birds play a leading role in the book, it is the great passion of the writer, a passion that is fatal to him. It is “all their fault, their fault that he is lying here”, the writer thinks when he is seriously injured in the forest. In his chaotic thoughts he thinks he sees a black woodpecker, that bird symbolizes the catastrophe, the approaching death that seems to be about to take place.
Love is central in the novel, the love the writer feels for his wife Pauline, she is his haven, his everything, other women do not count to him. And of course also the passion, the love for birds.
Title statement Dryocopus
The novel is all about birds, a dryocopus is a black woodpecker who plays an important role in the story. The writer is fond of woodpeckers, he thinks they are the nicest and most interesting birds.
Taking stock of your life, that is what the writer does when he is seriously injured in the forest and reflects on his life. At the same time, it is also a farewell to the life he has led.
Place, time and perspective
The story is told by the I person, the main character of the story. There is no chronological order. His thoughts jump from one subject to another and go from the present day in Metz to the holidays he spent as a child in France.
A beautiful book, perhaps also a novella. Donkers observes and uses short sentences that liven up the whole. You experience the I person’s life through his thoughts. The writer in the novel does not lead an impressive or inspiring life, but Owen Donkers’ way of describing the events and persons in the book gets color.
Jan Siebelink – “A gem of refined writing. A special book that never gets boring.”
Peter Buwalda – “Donkers can write damn well.”
About Owen Donkers
Owen Donkers was born in Nieuwegein in 1977. He studied in Groningen and lived for a while in France and the United States, in 2020 he lives in Bennekom. His debut novel Julien was published in 2009, then he wrote Calippo cola in 2011 and IJsbrood in 2013. Donkers is a full-time writer by profession.
Owen Donkers does not drive a car and he has no television or mobile. While running, he gets inspiration for writing. Co-writers he admires are Jeroen Brouwers, Louis Paul Boon and Simon Vestdijk. He always reads a book twice for the simple reason that the book gets through to him better.