30 Dec / The Angel Maker by Stefan Brijs, translated by Hester Velmans [in San Francisco Chronicle]
Belgian-born Stefan Brijs’ novel The Angel Maker seemingly has all the necessary elements to be a success with U.S. readers. It’s already an international bestseller, with 80,000 copies sold in Holland alone, according to the pre-publication press material. It deals with the sort of multi-layered, interwoven Big Topics that promise to keep readers engaged – from ethics to science to that ever-present battle of God versus man. And if that wasn’t enough, it throws in the latest contemporary issues like autism, infertility, cloning and, of course, the most dysfunctional of families to satisfy anyone’s sense of Schadenfreude.
But something gets lost in the translation, perhaps literally: As rendered in English, anyway, The Angel Maker proves to be clunky and heavy, with characters that never seem to expand beyond the flat page.
At the center of a sizable cast is Dr. Victor Hoppe, a once-famous embryologist who returns unannounced to his native village of Wolfheim, a rather zealous Catholic community just beyond the tri-country border of Belgium, Holland and Germany. He arrives with three motherless infant sons, whom he immediately whisks into the family home, hardly ever to emerge again. …[click here for more]
Published: 2008 (United States)