Reviews of A Heart of Stone by Renate Dorrestein

A Heart of Stone

by Renate Dorrestein

A Heart of Stone by Renate Dorrestein X
A Heart of Stone by Renate Dorrestein
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jan 2001, 256 pages

    Paperback:
    Jan 2002, 256 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Seamlessly alternating the past and present, taut with Hitchcockian tension and warmed by a redemptive love story, A Heart of Stone tells a darkly humorous, yet ultimately compassionate tale.

Renate Dorrestein is that rare storyteller who dazzles critics and captivates readers.

Provocative, stylish, and emotionally resonant, A Heart of Stone (her first book to be translated into English) is certain to cause a sensation on the international scene and Viking is proud to introduce her to the American public. This beautifully woven masterpiece, spare yet richly told, plumbs the undercurrents of family life and tragedy in a startling and wise story of love, fate, and survival.

Ellen Van Bemmel lives with her parents, who run an American news-clipping service, and her three siblings in an old Dutch house in a suburb of Amsterdam. Ellen's idyllic childhood is suffused with Americana, both the frivolous fringes like potato chips and Coca-Cola as well as milestones like Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon, until family disaster strikes on her twelfth birthday. From that moment on her world begins to unravel.

Years later, Ellen plunges us into the past as she leafs through a faded photo album and confronts the literal and figurative ghosts of her childhood. Seamlessly alternating the past and present, taut with Hitchcockian tension and warmed by a redemptive love story, A Heart of Stone tells a darkly humorous, yet ultimately compassionate tale.

College Years, Autumn 1956 or 1957

There were already four of us by the time Ida arrived, on an unusually cold summer's night. Thanks to a nearly full moon, it was still so bright out at two a.m. that we could count the freckles on each other's noses. We had vowed not to go to sleep until we'd heard the new baby's first cry. We had taken chips and Cokes up to our attic bedroom and had put on our warmest flannel pajamas.

I had made myself a comfy nest on Kester's bed with a stack of pillows. To kill time, he and I were reading a Batman comic book together. He would give me a soft poke in the ribs when it was time to turn the page. Our sister Billie, at her usual post in front of the mirror by the clothes closet, was engrossed in snipping off the split ends of her long black hair with nail scissors. And Carlos was on his feet in his crib crooning with excitement, groggy with sleep, his tummy bulging over his drooping diaper. We called him Carlos because as ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Introduction

Like many of the most powerful novels written over the last thirty years, A Heart of Stone is a tender yet haunting coming-of-age story that explores the complex emotional legacy that family life bequeaths to the individual. But Renate Dorrestein offers a new and strange perspective by showing how even the happiest of families can both suffer and inflict terrible devastation—and how an imperfect and amazingly strong girl manages to survive the most horrible of family tragedies while retaining both her sanity and her spark for life.

The van Bemmels do not seem to be dysfunctional in the ways readers of contemporary fiction have come to expect. In fact, they appear to be a normal, warmly affectionate, emotionally ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $39 for 12 months or $12 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

Time Magazine
A stunning novel about the scorching legacy of loss...fresh and hauntingly familiar.

London Times
Elegantly chilling...beautifully written.

Wall Street Journal
...seamlessly executed...an intuitive sense of suspense...keeps the reader off balance to the end.

Kirkus Reviews
The history of a destroyed family and the mingled guilt and rage that possess the survivor who remembers, and reimagines, their story—all rendered with hallucinatory clarity in this first English translation of yet another popular and critically acclaimed Dutch author..... The climactic pages are as harrowing as anything in contemporary fiction, but you won't want to miss a word leading up to them. A triumph.

Publisher's Weekly
Dorrestein's first novel to be translated into English is a riveting psychological thriller that rates comparison with Shirley Jackson's classic, We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

Reader Reviews

Ashley

I felt this book was extremely moving. The intense love between parents provides a distraction from their children, but the love of a mother for her daughter provides an excuse for murder. Dorrestein is very capable of making readers sit open-...   Read More
Anonymous

A beautifully written book that keeps the reader on edge until the last chapter. Her writing technique of just allowing enought information to keep you titilated until the end. I would recommend it to friends and book clubs.
Yossapon Tiranut

Awesome book, im goin to try to read this book again because i didnt really understand it in the first place but it was well written. Please if you can, just try to explain in a plain English what this book is really about, it would be great...Thanks...   Read More
Rita

A heart of stone -short review
This book reveals the journey of a middle aged woman in the past, to face her tragic childhood that changed her life once and for all.It also shows how over the years, she has tried to escape form her "nightmare", but her family photo album...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $39 for 12 months or $12 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Read-alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked A Heart of Stone, try these:

  • Unlucky For Some jacket

    Unlucky For Some

    by Jill McGown

    Published 2006

    About this book

    McGown's storytelling genius will captivate longtime fans as well as first-time readers. Unlucky for Some is lucky for all admirers of virtuoso suspense writing.

  • The Lake of Dead Languages jacket

    The Lake of Dead Languages

    by Carol Goodman

    Published 2003

    About this book

    More by this author

    An eloquent thriller, an intricate balance of suspense and fine storytelling that proves Carol Goodman is a rare new talent with a brilliant future.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search read-alikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $39 for 12 months or $12 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

and discover exceptional books
for just $3.25 per month.

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: We Had to Remove This Post
    We Had to Remove This Post
    by Hanna Bervoets
    It's not about money. Kayleigh, the protagonist and narrator of We Had to Remove This Post, a newly ...
  • Book Jacket: River of the Gods
    River of the Gods
    by Candice Millard
    The Nile River has provided vital resources for millennia, serving as a source of water, food and ...
  • Book Jacket: Horse
    Horse
    by Geraldine Brooks
    Geraldine Brooks creates a powerful backstory for 19th-century thoroughbred racehorse Lexington, ...
  • Book Jacket: Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance
    Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance
    by Alison Espach
    Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance will make you ache for a loss you didn't experience as you relate...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
Hamnet
by Maggie O'Farrell
"Of all the stories...about Shakespeare’s life, [Hamnet] is so gorgeously written that it transports you."
The Boston Globe

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    One's Company
    by Ashley Hutson

    For readers of Ottessa Moshfegh this fearless debut chronicles one woman's escape into a world of obsessive imagination.

  • Book Jacket

    The Lies I Tell
    by Julie Clark

    The new thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of The Last Flight!

Win This Book!
Win Where the Crawdads Sing

Win a signed copy of Where the Crawdads Sing

In celebration of the movie release on July 15, we have three signed copies to give away.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

T O Thing W H T F I F I

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.