Doubleday Canada, August 23, 2016.
Jan is a pianist at the height of his career, but he is struggling with his music due to auditory hallucinations that will eventually destroy his future in music. At one of his final performances, he is beset by memories of his childhood friend Dirk, with whom he has lost touch. Without any upcoming performances, Jan is set adrift, and he decides to find Dirk and rekindle their friendship.
The two boys met in elementary school, and their relationship blossomed into one of deep intimacy – at times, their intense friendship blurred the lines into physical love. In fact, the synopsis reminded me of A Little Life, but it was really nothing like it, and School of Velocity was disappointing in comparison. It is a much shorter novel, but even so, I felt like it didn’t go into as much depth of emotion as it could have. However, that may also be a cultural difference, as this novel is set primarily in the Netherlands, and it has a very European feel.
Before his final meeting with Dirk, Jan reminisces about their coming of age and his emotional, obsessive feelings for Dirk – Jan’s memories gradually lead the reader to the present day, and to his reunion with Dirk. It is an exploration of Jan’s repression of his true sexuality, and their adolescent blurring of the line between sex and friendship.
The novel has a musical background, and the lyrical writing flows nicely even as I lost interest in the characters. Jan and Dirk are complex, but I did not connect with them. By the time they reunited, I just didn’t care about them anymore. The ending was good because it was not perfect, and I enjoyed the realism of Jan’s feelings. I just wished for more depth in his journey of self-discovery.
I received this novel from Doubleday Canada and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.