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A View of the Ocean

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Jan de Hartog’s 102-page memoir may be slim, but it’s far from a light read. The prolific Dutch author and playwright offers some vivid memories of his youth and his Protestant pastor father (”a simple man, bighearted, big-stomached, big-muscled”). But the book’s main focus is de Hartog’s mother (”a gentle, saintly woman”), her often difficult life, and her punishing battle with stomach cancer — which is recounted in agonizing detail. A View of the Ocean is an unflinching look at death and the process of dying, made all the more poignant by the fact that its publication comes five years after the author’s own passing. B+