Tante Mathilde – disappointing sequel

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Tante Mathilde coverPaul Biegel, Tante Mathilde en de Sterren van de Grote Beer

I’ve looked for this sequel to De brieven van de generaal ever since Secunda had it from the library about ten years ago — first for her because she had it on birthday and St. Nicholas wishlists a couple of times, then, when she grew out of wanting it, for myself.

Now I had almost thirty euros’ worth of gift tokens from a web bookshop, and someone was offering it second-hand at a normal book price (that is, not a collectors’ price; about ten euros). So I ordered it, along with English Bread and Yeast Cookery which hasn’t arrived yet.

I don’t know if I actually read it the first time or just browsed it when the library copy was lying around in the house, because I vaguely remembered some scenes but not any of the plot. That might be because the plot is singularly unmemorable: it’s one big chase that turns around in the end when the prey has reason to hunt the hunters. This, in Paul Biegel’s hands, might be a delightful romp but instead it’s one episode after another of more-of-the-same. My other half thinks the writer may have been distracted or going through a bad time when he wrote it.

It doesn’t help that the illustrations (by Marcel Bierenbroodspot) are in a style I don’t particularly like. Also, it doesn’t help that the first-person-plural that worked so well with three children as protagonists in De brieven van de generaal somehow falls flat in the sequel with only two.

I read on the book’s Wikipedia page that Paul Biegel read it on radio as a series; this may be a cause of the one-thing-after-another plot, somewhat like some of our soap-opera roleplaying campaigns: fun to play but wouldn’t work so well as a book.


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