English, please!

ellendebruinEllen de Bruin is a reporter at the Dutch twin newspapers NRC Handelsblad en nrc.next. She mainly covers social sciences and human behavior, but she will write about anything she likes if no one stops her. For some reason, she especially likes English-language fiction. She has interviewed lots of writers too, like Kate Atkinson, Elizabeth Gilbert, Lisa Halliday, David Mitchell, Ann Patchett, Oliver Sacks, George Saunders, Tom Wolfe, and Nell Zink.


Ellen has published two novels. The new one, Kraaien in het paradijs (‘Crows in paradise’, April 2021), is a sinister, funny fairy tale: a braid of three stories about a woman who is, in a too near future, stuck on an island where she a crazy man wants to kill her. It is a weird and wonderful book. There is a murder in it, and a cat. Kraaien in het paradijs got several four-star reviews, praising its unputdownableness and its clever structure.

The first novel, Onder het ijs (‘Under the ice’, 2018) won the Anton Wachterprijs, the most important prize for debut novels in The Netherlands. It is a coming of age story about a young phd student who is sent on a climate science expedition by ship to the North Pole while she is in love wth her late professor. Will she be able to finish his research and find her own place in the world?


Before the novels, Ellen published three books of non-fiction (in Dutch). The first was Dutch Women Don’t Get Depressed: hoe komen die vrouwen zo stoer (2007; the subtitle translates as ‘How These Women Got So Tough’). It is the Dutch answer to French Women Don’t Get Fat (because that isn’t true either). DWDGD is a sociocultural history of the Dutch woman, from the Dutch Golden Age to our current part-time working days. It is also a user’s guide to Dutch women. The New York Times wrote about DWDGD: “While the book clearly parodies its French and Japanese rivals, it is underpinned by serious research. And its author does seem to have a point” (Caroline Brothers, 6 June 2007). The Independent on Sunday countered with “De Bruin is scruffy-looking with no hair style […] With respect, how many of us wish to be Dutch?” (Sarah Sands, 10 June 2007). Sadly, this article was taken down from the internet.

Still, it made Ellen want to write her second book: Onsterfelijkheid voor beginners (2009; the title translates as Immortality, A Beginners’ Guide). It is the world’s first self-help book teaching people how to live forever. The reader can choose his or her favourite method with the help of an easy, step-by-step illustrated plan. The author just hoped to attain immortality by means of the book.

That settled, Ellen worked in newspaper middle management for a couple of years. After having gone back to reporting, she wrote her third book: Vergaderen? Niet doen! (Don’t Go To Business Meetings, 2014), a book listing all that is bad about business meetings, again supported by scientific research.

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