Karen slips in and out of people's lives unnoticed as she dusts picture-frames on desks in offices in the mornings and as she cleans other people's mess at a retirement home in the afternoons for a living. She boards a plane for the first time for her daughter's hen-do. 'She isn't dressed like a 'red Indian', she's dressed like a Native American Indian', reminds Jack, as he and his father, Alan, embark on a trip together. Coincidentally they sit next to Karen on the plane. Alan is an art teacher, suffers from guilt and a yearning for his old life back after having cheated on his wife with a student; and while his ex-wife gallivants around Spain to visit a new house with her new boyfriend, Alan is summoned to take care of their 16-year-old son Jack, who listens to the Death Pixels a lot of the time.
Boarding the same plane is middle-aged couple, Marion and Richard. A few days previous, Marion went to the gym for the first time in her life - a birthday present from her husband. They run a garden centre together and have several children. Marion is convinced that Richard is cheating on her with one of their new recruits at the garden centre. Her lack of self-belief is disheartening and one evening, it leads her down one of Amsterdam's darkest alleyways.
All three sets of lives unravel in the Dutch capital simultaneously. The characters search for a way through the labyrinth of their relationships; Karen with her daughter Shannon, Marion with Richard and Alan with Jack.
The novel is an exploration of intimacy within the different relationships in the novel. The story of complex emotional twists and turns could have ended up a cliché tale of life and love. However, the depth of the characters and the narrator's voice lets the reader into the characters' consciousness, revealing their self-awareness; it is this analysis of the characters' behaviour that peels away the superficial layer of the story, giving The Light of Amsterdam more of a profound edge. It is this key element that holds the reader's attention right till the end of the novel as they wonder whether it is possible for the author to guide his characters out of the tangled mess they have become lost in.
A cold winter's weekend in Amsterdam turns out to be the door to a secret room left ajar through which fiery emotions fly uncontrollably.
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