A blast of a trip through revenge and grief
Roxy’s husband is killed in a car crash, where his body is found naked along with that of his lover. At twenty-seven, Roxy is left behind with their daughter, house, and car, his personal assistant, and the babysitter, all mixed up with the shame of this inglorious end to her marriage. As her parents try to take care of her, Roxy tries to burst free from the shackles of her grief. An impromptu all-female road trip ensues, filled with wry observations about loss, parental responsibility, and the expiry date of love. Through masterful dialogues and in her trademark lucid style, Gerritsen introduces the reader to a woman fighting for relief. Roxy is a character who both shocks and endears.
Esther Gerritsen (1972) is a Dutch novelist, columnist, and playwright. She made her literary debut in 2000. She is one of the most… Read more
Book Club Questions
- How would you characterize Roxy?
- Do you have sympathy for Roxy? (Why, why not?)
- When Arthur was buried, Roxy immediately had sex with Marcel, the funeral director. After this she goes on to sleep with several other men. Why would Roxy be so eagerly looking for possible (bed) partners?
- Roxy seems to struggle with the contradictions between her “simple” rural background and the life of wealth she has built up with Arthur. In which of the two cultures does she feel more at home, according to you? Where in the text can you find evidence of this?
- Did you find one of the two cultures more personally appealing?
- What contradictions are there between Liza and Jane on the one hand and Roxy on the other? How do these contradictions come to the fore and what do they mean?
- What role do Liza and Jane play in relation to Roxy?
- Is Roxy looking for an enemy? And if so, why does she do this? If not, what is she looking for?
- The lyrics “Day-o, day-ay-ay-o. Daylight come and he wan’ go home” (from “Banana Boat Song” by Harry Belafonte) occur more than once in the book. What significance could this fragment of music have?
- On the one hand Roxy feels safe with her daughter, Louise, and wants to be with her as much as possible, on the other hand she frequently tries to escape from her and to transfer her to Liza. Why is she doing this?
- Is Roxy exceptionally conflicted, or is she very recognizably and universally human in that respect? Could you personally identify with those contradictory desires?
- Does Roxy miss Arthur? If so/if not, how is this shown, and what does this show about Roxy?
- The novel starts with a motto by Sophocles: “Dost thou behold / How I, stout heart and bold, / I, the undaunted once in open battle, / Lay violent hands on unsuspecting cattle? / Alas for scorn! How am I put to shame!” In what ways does Roxy appear like Ajax—aside from the fact that they both beat up defenseless cattle? Are there similarities between the Roxy of the novel and the story of Ajax?
- What do you think is the meaning of what Roxy does to the sheep?
- Was the setting one that felt familiar or relatable to you? Why or why not?
- The book ends with Roxy’s decision not to ride off with her father, but to return to Louise. Why is she making this decision?
‘At the opening of Esther Gerritsen’s Roxy, twenty-seven-year-old Roxy, a famous novelist and former tabloid fodder, learns that her husband has died. What follows is her unraveling. Introspective as it traces Roxy’s tragic fall, the novel is arresting (…) Rich and a little bitter, Roxy is powered by the monumental weight of Esther Gerritsen’s intense and insatiable prose, which is beautifully translated by Michele Hutchison. Consume it with coffee, dark chocolate, or red wine.’ —Jessie Horness, Foreword Reviews
‘A diverting absurdist parable…Questionable parenting and bizarre behavior are hallmarks of Gerritsen’s previous novel, too, but Roxy’s story is starker and more manic, as her road trip of self-discovery spirals down into ever darker, more violent behavior before emerging into a degree of realization.’ —Kirkus Reviews
‘Roxy is a splendid little book about a fascinating yet troubling protagonist, with Gerritsen’s stripped-back language providing a very readable and direct narrative.’ —European Literature Network
‘A raw, unsettling book.’ —Daily Mail
‘A novel you devour in one sitting: elegiac, beautiful, and very strong.’ —Herman Koch, author of The Dinner
‘Some sentences in Roxy are as if carved in stone; like Samuel Beckett, Gerritsen knows how to capture moments of terrifying precision and darkness.’ —De Morgen
‘In her fifth book Esther Gerritsen has continued to grow to the level of an author who dares to incorporate everything—from comical cross-talk to heart-rending silence. Once again, she displays her gift for striking sentences and dialogue that teeters on the thin line between normality and alienation, between entertaining kookiness and harrowing absurdism.’ —De Volkskrant
‘Even more than we have grown used to, in Roxy Gerritsen strips her scenes and language to the bone, leaving us with the core, which is ridiculously good.’ —Opzij Literature Prize
‘The stories of Esther Gerritsen, one of the best Dutch writers for years, are always extreme, dramatic, and confrontational. What is so special about Gerritsen’s work is that within a somewhat outrageous story she wraps a deeper, existential message.’ —Trouw
‘Gerritsen juggles a fairly large cast of characters around Roxy, and her handling of them is impressive…Roxy is perhaps most successful in Gerritsen’s refusal to wallow in the sentimental.’ —The Complete Review
‘While it may have been the promise of misery that first attracted me to the book, though, it is largely the wit and humour that make this such a powerful read…This is writing of the highest order.’ —Bookmunch
Why You Should Read This Book
“I asked myself the question: What happens when a woman is furious but there is no enemy in sight? Roxy materialized out of this consideration.”
ESTHER GERRITSEN, the author
“Roxy is a warped road novel that comes after you with a surprise left hook. Anyone who has experienced grief and mourning will find themselves gripped by its eponymous protagonist’s attempts to seek solace and perhaps also revenge.”
MICHELE HUTCHISON, the translator
“Esther Gerritsen stands out as one of the most original voices in Dutch literature. Her characters are driven by irrational and instinctive forces, which find their sources in grief, anger, and despair. Her writing is astute, funny, daring, and full of life; and discomfits the reader in a way only great literature is able.”
JUDITH UYTERLINDE, the publisher