Ten White Geese by Gerbrand Bakker is a hauntingly beautiful novel that resides in the naturalistic rural country mind. What have happened to three of the geese? She has taken up residence in an abandoned farm. She is following a scholarly path via the Collected Poems of Emily Dickenson. She is returning to her roots and is going native. She is in a rented house far from anyone and without curtains, though she thinks she needs them. The fireplace works well and she takes naps on boulders. One day a badger bit her as she was sleeping nude on a boulder. Sheep and other livestock visit her house. She is tending to the landscape and gardens, but doesn’t know what things are what. Why is she here? Is it refuge from a failed marriage and teaching job?
She has a symbiotic relationship to Emily Dickenson. She lives alone in this rustic abandoned farm doing chores around the farm to accommodate the geese and garden. It is her sanctuary just as Emily had the attic of her dad’s house in Amherst. She abandoned her mobile phone on the ferry over to UK and thereby abandoned all electronics and going old school.
Rhys Jones, a local farmer/shepherd fills her in on Mrs Evans, the former tenant of the farm. The geese are hers and she gets a lamb in the spring in exchange for grazing rights. He has a key to the place, which he turns over to her. She has had her Collected Works of Emily Dickenson for a decade and never noticed in the TOC that the LOVE section was short, whereas the TIME & ETERNITY section was long. She cried.
Each day bring one less goose. She is getting less lost on her walks and drives. She is seeing Emily in her garden Her husband, father and mother have no idea where she is. The husband gets a foot injury as does his wife, Emilie, from the badger. His was from a box of books, her books he was storing away, that fell on his foot. While at the doctor, he discovered something medical about her. We learn her name when a walking traveler, Bradwen Jones, and his dog, Sam, stop by her house.
Everyone doesn’t believe she was bitten in the middle of the day by a badger. They are nocturnal and shy. Everyone thinks she is German when she speaks. She is Dutch. She thinks everyone named Jones is related. She can’t seem to get rid of Bradwen and Sam. He does things around the house and Emilie wonders about how Emily could live as she did. Is there envy?
She has admired Emily all her life and unlike Emily she has allowed the men in her life call the shots. She admires Emily and wants to be Emily Dickenson.