Review: Pjotr by Jan Terlouw

Jan Terlouw
(Cover art by Dirk van der Maat)
Lemniscaat 1970

Book review | Pjotr by Jan Terlouw | 3 stars


Synopsis (English translation below)*

Pjotrs moeder is al lang dood. Hij en zijn vader zijn de beste vrienden. Dan moet Pjotrs vader naar de gevangenis. Waarom? In woede heeft hij een man neergeslagen die Pjotr aanviel. Nu wordt hij naar Siberië gestuurd. Pjotr gaat hem achterna, een barre tocht te voet dwars door Rusland, een reis die langer duurt dan hij had verwacht. Maar hij geeft de moed niet op, want hij twijfelt er niet aan dat hij zijn vader zal vinden.

Pjotr’s mother has been dead for a long time. He and his father are best friends. Then, Pjotr’s father has to go to prison. Why? In a rage he beat up a man who was attacking Pjotr. Now, he’s sent to Siberia. Pjotr follows him, a difficult journey on foot across Russia, a journey that takes longer than he expected. But he doesn’t give up, because he doesn’t doubt that he’ll find his father.


Again, Terlouw’s writing is amazing. The way he describes the scenes and his magic with words, makes you feel as if you’re really there. His writing is beautiful, easy to understand for children, and a pleasure to read.

The concept of a journey through Russia is a very interesting one. It’s such a big country with lots of different places and scenes. What better place to feature a road trip-like story? Unfortunately the story is quite dragged out. I understand a journey through Russia isn’t going to be easy, but I got a bit bored with the slowness of it, or rather the uneventfulness. A lot of the time Pjotr is either looking for work, or working. Neither of which are particularly interesting to read about, no matter how strenuous it is.

What also bothered me were the added perspectives. These weren’t at all necessary, and detracted from the story, adding to the slow pace of the book.

All in all though, it’s definitely not a bad book, I had just hoped for many more adventures than there were.

Translations on Goodreads: Italian and Spanish.
Translations according to the Letterenfonds: Basque, Catalan, Danish, Icelandic, Italian and Spanish.

*Freely translated from Dutch

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