A mosaic novel about a dinner party that takes a catastrophic turn.
‘Seven narrators, each as fascinating as they are addictive, drew me into this book from the very first page and refused to let me go. Who Knows penetrates the deep, not always visible heart of the times we are living in, not only in the Netherlands but across Europe – the whole world over.’
– Herman Koch
‘Loontjens’ work teems with freshness and originality. Her brand-new fourth novel is an incisive reflection on our age.’
– De Morgen ★★★★ ½
Amsterdam, January 2015, the eve of a major protest march in response to the attack on Charlie Hebdo. Eight friends and family members are dining together. Subtle, telling descriptions reveal the tensions between the people at the table, exploring the fabric of today’s multicultural European society.
A dinner party in a fashionable house – but beneath the veneer of warmth and hospitality, trouble is brewing.
Short chapters, each one named after the person whose perspective it describes, shed light on the true relationships and frictions between the characters. The arrogant stockbroker Paul is ashamed of his sensitive brother, the park keeper Philip, and vice versa. Manon, Paul’s ex-wife, teaches at a university on the verge of a student uprising, and their twelve-year-old daughter Liv is being teased in her class’s online chat group. Mohammed, Manon’s new flame, is assumed to be a Muslim by the people around him, even though he’s non-religious. And then there’s Justus, a teacher with a habit of jumping into bed with his students – men and women alike – and who, in a drunken haze, climbs under the covers with Liv. When they’re found there, the ensuing fight brings the group’s suppressed conflicts to the surface.
All the characters are struggling to find their way in today’s multicultural society. Peace-loving Manon is accused of racism when she asks Liv’s headmaster to talk to the bullies in the school chat group, ‘and it just so happens they all come from immigrant families’. Her student Besma doesn’t feel welcome among the student activists, as a Muslim with a headscarf, but decides to join their protest anyway. Paul feels abandoned by his Somali girlfriend Ablah, who has always been a fierce opponent of Islam but won’t take part in the Charlie Hebdo march.
Who Knows offers a fascinating slice of contemporary urban life. All the characters wrestle with issues like social status, identity, prejudice and the desire to belong. Loontjens adeptly shows how people who live together often fail to understand each other, yet still feel connected.
‘The brilliant prose, the use of language that captures both contemporary life and the various personae, characters that the reader can easily identify with, themes that are important and topical right now: all these things mean that you will finish the book in 24 hours. After which the reader will need at least 24 hours to recover!’
– Hebban ★★★★
‘A novel with so many characters always presents the author with a tremendous problem: how to introduce them all without resorting to mini-biographies, and how to make sure the reader can keep track of who’s who. Loontjens has found an exceptionally neat solution. She simply tells her story, and thanks to a detail here and a brief allusion there, the puzzle pieces fall into place. She also uses different narrators for each chapter, each with a distinctive voice, showing us some scenes several times from different perspectives.’
‘Intuitively, Loontjens lets the right voices speak. An impressive portrait of this period.’
– Het Parool
‘Who Knows is a novel after my own heart, written to the sometimes faltering heartbeat of our troubled times.’
-A.F.Th. van der Heijden.
‘In an ingenious way, Jannah Loontjens interweaves eight contemporary lives. A lively and pressing novel that pursues the spirit of the times.’
– Joke J. Hermsen
‘Jannah Loontjens is a courageous writer. She transforms the most difficult societal events into a moving novel.’
– Femke Halsema