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An enthralling family history about emigration and uprooting

Fire and Air

Erik Vlaminck

‘Fire and Air’ is a moving tale of a family forced to live far from its native ground, in a place that will never feel like home.

Gaston, a fanatic pigeon fancier, is one of the many Belgians who moved to Canada after World War II to build a new life. He marries Mina and they have a daughter, Elly. For a long time, Elly trusts in her father. In her eyes, it is Mother who is the one spoiling things for everyone. Until suddenly Gaston leaves and goes back to Flanders.

Vlaminck is heir to the great naturalistic prose

As an adult, Elly seeks out her father in Belgium and it turns out that during the years he was in Canada he already had a family in his home country. She is bent on revenge and develops the habit of cutting herself. The madness takes hold of Elly to the point where she starts a fatal fire. In a dramatic turn of events, Elly and Mina lose their lives, which is where Linda, Elly’s daughter, begins hers.

With sensitivity and humour Vlaminck shows the effect the uprooting of a family can have. It is the story of many emigrants all over the world. With virtuoso skill, Vlaminck interweaves the voices of Elly, Linda, Mina and Gaston, each painted with a different palette. It produces a highly-colourful portrait of a broken family.

An immensely appealing novel, razor sharp in the psychological depiction of three generations of women. Humour and bitterness in the same breath.
A delightful read from beginning to end. With enviable flair the author switches from the 1960s to the 21st century and from Canada to Belgium and back.
De Standaard