Tonke Dragt, De torens van februari (The towers of February)
At last, a book that other people have written actual text about. It seems to have been wildly popular when it came out in 1973. I must admit that I’m one of the many people who sent the author fan mail about it (and got a long and very nice letter back, which I’ve kept but it’s not in the book where it ought to be– I remember taking it out and putting it away in order not to embarrass myself in front of the girls when they were of an age to read it). As usual with childhood and teenage favourites, I notice that I really missed an awful lot when I first read it. Or perhaps I’ve forgotten an awful lot… Anyway, it’s still very readable, though some of the “better world = less technology” stuff makes me cringe. Perhaps that’s because this is 2011, and that was 1973; or because I was fifteen at the time and my idealism didn’t go much further than that.
There are things in the “better world” that might actually be better– they have an awesome school system, for one, but one that only works if everybody wants to learn. And less technology means less pollution, of course. I’m not completely sure that people are happier there, though; it’s rife with unwritten rules that are very easy to transgress, and it looks nonconformist but you have to, er, conform to the nonconformist norm, and guess what it is because nobody will tell you. Also, religion is once again invisible: there is morality, and a hint of powers behind it, but there’s nothing explicit. This is probably because the author isn’t actively religious (at least that I know of). It isn’t particularly annoying here, but it is in De brief voor de koning, set in a definitely medieval world. It actually starts in a chapel, but that’s just about the last time religion is mentioned at all. (/me puts book on virtual reread pile)
I remember De torens van februari as much more mysterious, and at the same time much less of a mystery novel (as in “detective”). It also has a more open ending than I remember. I hope it actually ends the way I think is most plausible– I assume that that’s what the protagonist wanted, too.
Actually, Tonke Dragt is still alive (her latest book was published in 2007, I don’t know if it’s the last). De torens van februari is the only one of her books that’s been translated into English; several more have been translated into German and various other languages, even Estonian.