Femke 15/03/23


On 15 March 2023 we will be publishing Femke, the outstanding new novel by Hennessy Literary Award-winner David Cameron. Told from the unreliable point of view of Femke, a drifter living in turn-of-the-century Amsterdam, the novel charts her integration into the unsettling world of a British filmmaker and his wife, before meeting and befriending the ageing Dutch poet Michiel de Koning. Revelations about De Koning’s past work and involvement with real-life poet-murderer Gerrit Achterberg soon lead Femke to try and track down his mysterious great love and inspiration, ‘M’. Could finding M restore the ailing poet to health? And what else might she discover in the process – about her past, her mother, herself?

Today we have the pleasure of exclusively revealing the cover, designed by the brilliant Stephen Cameron of IntoCreative. Watch the cover reveal and listen to an excerpt from the novel in the video below:

NOTE: Femke was originally scheduled for November 2022 but has been delayed until 15 March 2023

Femke by David Cameron. Available November 17 2022
Photograph by Dalia Khamissy
Drawing by Wilson Russell
Narration by Ellen Klaver
Design by Stephen Cameron

With a stellar reputation behind him including the 2014 Hennessy Literary Award, in Femke David Cameron applies his poetic sensibility to a story steeped in real-life literary history, as well as literary allusion. Inspired by the infamous story of Dutch poet-murderer Gerrit Achterberg, whose work has been celebrated by Nobel Prize-winner J.M. Coetzee (Landscape with Rowers, 2014), Femke constructs its own fictional poet in Michel de Koning whose mysterious relationship to Achterberg challenges our assumed distinctions between reality and fiction, life and art.

Cameron began writing the novel as far back as 2000, while living in Amsterdam as an English teacher. Encouraged to write a novel about Achterberg by a fellow writer, he was later inspired by a brief encounter which gave birth to the fascinating character of Femke, and the two stories merged. The narration is unreliable in the caste of fellow Scottish authors Ewan Morrison, Graeme Macrae Burnet and James Hogg; though Femke may be less an unreliable narrator than someone who has learned to adapt to a world of unreliable listeners. Her self-confessed fallibility and penetrating narration bring a vitality and intrigue to this unique story of the search for truth in its many forms.

On the production of the novel, David Cameron has said: “Finishing a novel is only part of the adventure. The next part requires a meeting of minds with a publisher who is passionate about the work. I felt this happen immediately with Taproot Press. I knew that the story of Femke, a character I cared about so much, had found a good home.”

Femke is everything we look for in a work of fiction: challenging, thoughtful, and carefully constructed, with an arresting voice that grips hold of you from the first page and never lets go. It didn’t take us long to become deeply attached to the character of Femke, and we cannot wait to give her voice a page.

from Femke by David Cameron

available 17 November 2022

Bibi has what I need. I walk him all hours in this druggy park. We go round the lake and he sniffs the ducks – they have no fear here. Nobody has any fear.

I send him into the bushes and he brings back the stick and I send him in again, and then the men come out, the young one first, the hustler, who if he recognises me always laughs. Bibi knows these boys too. I’d pass the time of day with them, but they have nothing to say. Little at first, and later, nothing.                        

I think I’ve exhausted this park, then something new turns up. I found out a girl was discovered in leaf mould the year I was born. That was near the hyacinths. There was a service, hyacinths were planted. If there was a plaque on some tree or bench, it’s been ripped out. That was the right thing to do: parks are for the living.

I met my ex in this park. I saw all this as a kid, was wheeled through the gates out of the park, looked up at the same old clock on the burnt church. Now it’s mainly offices. I don’t mind, I hated that gloomy church. Though old people could doze in it when the park was freezing. The gates are the same too. Wonderful wrought iron, with a design you think is dragons but is only plant stems. Now the man who made those gates, I’d like to speak to him for a day. Just listen and nod sometimes and let him ask me about Bibi and anything he wanted really. I wouldn’t mind sitting beside a man like that.

I’m not in the mood for the market today. All that fowl hanging upside down and making Bibi excited. I’d sooner take my chances in the museum. When you’re hungry, you can cope with the smell of must better than roasting chicken. It’s my own fault, I shouldn’t walk so much. Walking is always fatal. Each day I tell myself I’ll stay still tomorrow. Tomorrow comes and I’m halfway round the city before I remember. Why should I complain? Bibi doesn’t. I see hunger in his eyes sometimes, and I love him so much for trying to hide it.

‘Cappuccino, with nutmeg,’ I tell the boy in the coffee cart. Whenever I feel poor I spend money. This won’t be much, and I avoid looking down at Bibi. There’s nothing for you here, boy, anyway.

I’m talking to my dog.

Femke will be available November 17 – sign up to our newsletter for further updates, including pre-orders and more promotional videos.

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