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Audiobook Review: The Days of Bluegrass Love


The Days of Bluegrass Love by Edward van de Vendel, translated by Emma Rault. Audiobook narrated by Tom Picasso

The Days of Bluegrass Love was originally published in the Netherlands in 1999, and has only recently been translated into English. It’s a YA novel about two young men, one from the Netherlands and the other from Norway, who fall in love.

Tycho Zeling, from the Netherlands, is the main character. Just out of high school he’s a bit adrift - he hasn’t really decided what he wants to do with his life. So, rather than face life decisions for which he’s not really ready, he decides to get away for a while, and go to America to work as a camp counselor at a summer camp for international kids. At the airport he meets Oliver Kjelsberg, who is on his way to the same summer camp. The two form an immediate bond, and end up rooming together as counselors.

As Tycho and Oliver realize that what they have is more than friendship the reaction from their fellow camp counselors and other camp staff is mostly positive. The summer camp has rules though, and the camp director asks them to “cool it”. Oliver resists conforming to those rules, taking Tycho to spend a night outdoors, away from the camp, which ends in their being expelled.

So the two decide to go back home to Europe. To Oliver’s home specifically, as his mother is away and they can be together there for the rest of the summer. It’s when they arrive back in Norway that what started as a simple summer love story begins to run into reality, which may not be so kind to them.

The book is realistic. Tycho and Oliver are not perfect. They act like teenagers and sometimes they do dumb things. They move at different speeds in their understanding of their sexuality, their ability to come out (to others and to themselves), and their goals in life. It can be difficult to root for them as a couple, and it’s not totally clear at the end of the book whether theirs will be a summer love or something more lasting.

The book is short and fast paced, though it covers quite a lot of ground. This is a little frustrating and can seem like the unnecessary constraints of a YA novel. But it’s also van de Vendel’s skillful way of unwinding his story. We are discovering Tycho and Oliver as they discover each other themselves, tumbling headlong through the summer. Is Tycho as mature (though undecided about his future) as he first seemed? Is Oliver as clear in his head about what he wants as he seemed to be at camp in America?

When I read reviews of the original Dutch version I repeatedly see references to the beautiful language in which the story is told. While I can’t testify to that, I can say that the English translation is also quite beautiful. And the audiobook narration by Tom Picasso was perfect.

This is the first of four books in the Tycho / Oliver series, though the only one so far translated into English. If you are YA fan, and looking for something different than the many “meet cute” LGBT love stories on the market right now I recommend giving this one a chance. I’m glad I did.

Rating: Four Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Title: The Days of Bluegrass Love

Author: Edward van de Vendel

Publisher: Recorded Books Audio

Publish Date: May 17, 2022

ISBN-13: 9781705066140

Publisher’s List Price: Not available directly from the publisher