Thirty Days (US Edition)

By Annelies Verbeke

Alphonse, born in Senegal but raised in Flanders and in love with Kat, has recently moved to the Belgian countryside where, away from the city, he finds contentment as a handyman. Good with his hands, Alphonse is even better with his heart, brightening up not just interiors but their inhabitants, too. He varnishes parquet and listens to people’s sorrows, he hangs wallpaper and whispers advice. He listens to stories about neighbors’ quarrels, infidelity, asylum seekers, ghosts, and erotic fantasies. But what he doesn’t expect is that he…
Read more about this book







Literary novel




Liz Waters



Original Title

Dertig Dagen

Year of publication


Date of publication 6 November 2018


'A dialogue with our fickle, tough times. Read it slowly. Put it aside. Read it again.'—David Van Reybrouck, author of Congo ‘Verbeke has written a bold, busy, textured novel. Read it once and you may well read it twice.’—The Irish Times

About the author

Annelies Verbeke

Annelies Verbeke (Belgium) is a Belgian novelist who also writes short stories, essays, plays, and screenplays. Her first novel Slaap! (Sleep!) sold over 75,000 copies and was published in twenty-two countries. Her novel-in-stories Assumptions was published in English in 2015. Thirty Days was nominated for prestigious literary prizes and sold over 25,000 copies. She lives in Ghent. Photo: © Alex Salinas

Book Club Questions

Book Club Questions

  1. Is Alphonse as close as a believable character can get to being a perfect man? Do you know anyone like him?
  2. Or is Alphonse simply a perfect stranger?
  3. Were the confessions sometimes too readily shared? What does that say about the kinds of people the ‘clients’ are?
  4. Do you enjoy being a fly on the wall? Did it help that the protagonist spoke so little when his clients shared their stories with him?
  5. Would you characterize the style as somewhat minimalistic and subtle? If so, did this make you more intrigued as a reader?
  6. Why did the book provide the author-character’s relatively lengthy erotic short story in full?
  7. Would you – as several characters in the novel do – characterize Alphonse’s restraint as selfish or cowardly?
  8. Could Alphonse perhaps use a good therapeutic conversation with an interior decorator himself?
  9. Did you find the turns of events and recurrences of characters realistic? If not, did this element perhaps add to the overall hopeful tone of a novel which contained many sad stories?
  10. Does Alphonse’s internal life suggest he is going through a kind of midlife crisis? Do you recognize any indicators of that?
  11. Was there a specific internal story which you would have liked to read more about? Which one, and why?
  12. Was there a specific internal story you found particularly recognizable? Was it the same one?
  13. Did you see any changes in the way Alphonse reacted to his clients?
  14. Were there themes which tied many of these clients’ stories together?
  15. Did Alphonse ever lose his detached listening style, by getting emotional or by giving advice connected to his own struggles?
  16. Did you find any of the animals (the skylark, the dogs, the butterflies …) particularly intriguing? Have you had similar meaningful experiences with animals you didn’t personally know?