FROM ELLEN: The Pacific Northwest has had a balmy time of it the past few months. While Europe and the East Coast shivered, we've had an extended bout of what's called a "false spring," with trees budding and birds singing and -- what's this? -- I guess they call it sunshine.
This unusually pleasant weather has only sharpened the contrast between my ordinary, predictable life here and the horrible circumstances of those affected by the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile. Here I sit, perilously close to the same fault line that runs down the western spine of South America, but Nature seems so benign. Except, of course, in my head, where I've been thrown out of my complacency by Margaret Atwood's latest novel, the haunting futuristic story entitled "The Year of the Flood," and a newcomer by Dutch writer Margriet de Moor, "The Storm."
As much as I admire Atwood, I have a harder time occupying her imagination and a desperate future than the world of the past that de Moor creates. Her book is based on an actual event, a freak hurricane in 1953 that piled up a mountain of water in the sea and spilled it over The Netherlands, demolishing dikes and wiping out a quarter of the country's landmass. "The Storm," translated by Carol Brown Janeway and published this month in this country by Knopf, tells the tale of two twenty-something sisters against the backdrop of this once-in-300-years disaster. Lidy, the elder, becomes trapped in the path of the hurricane while on an outing made possible by her younger sister, Armanda. The novel tracks events and their inner before and after the wall of water descends.
Translations are a tough sell in this country unless the author has a recognized name, like the German Gunther Grass or Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk. I hope this will not be the case for Margriet de Moor and "The Storm." It beautifully evokes the scenario of an unfolding disaster, historical fact, the Dutch landscape and survivors' trauma. A terrific novel.