Critical Evaluation

(Essentials of European Literature)

SMALL SOULS, written by one of the foremost of modern Dutch novelists, is the first of a series of four novels known as THE BOOKS OF THE SMALL SOULS (1901-1903). Constance, who divorced her prominent husband and married for love, is unable, even after twenty years, to escape the condemnation of a society, comprised of small souls who are very tender to criticism and are engaged in schemes of attaining status by the use of gossip, rumor, scandal, and fear. This theme is conveyed through a realistic interplay of characters. The deft presentation of the dark, chill, and damp Dutch climate also serves to further the theme.

In THE BOOKS OF THE SMALL SOULS, the romantic and the realistic are synthesized in family novels that trace the history of a bourgeois family over a period of generations. The Van Lowes are little people living out the life of a family whose innovative impulse has passed away. Through them, however, the reader feels the essential things in Dutch life and culture not historically through the development of an epoch of political orientation, but statically, as befits a nation retired from business and living in the suburbs of the world, intent on well-being. Occasionally, there comes a whisper from across the seas, from the Indies, reminiscent of the days when Grandpapa Van Lowe was Governor General in his palaces at Batavia and Buitenzorg. This, however, only serves to emphasize by contrast the dull monotony of the...

(The entire section is 448 words.)