Thirty Days


A unique novel about goodness and compassion

Alphonse is a Senegalese immigrant who uproots his life in Brussels to become a handyman in rural  Flanders. Likeable and charismatic, people cannot help but reveal their secrets, desires and unexpected dreams to him. In her typically astute style, Verbeke weaves a vivid and thought-provoking tale of contemporary life, subtly touching upon timely themes such as refugees and racism. Thirty Days is a deeply moving story about love, outsiders and the human need to connect.

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Publication date

November 6, 2018


Annelies Verbeke

Annelies Verbeke is a writer of novels, short stories, and plays. She made her literary debut in 2003 with the much… Read more


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?


“This wry Belgian writer takes a sharp, very human look at how lives meander and collide…For all the serious issues it explores, it is also very funny and astute. It is not only a European book, it is a fearless exposé of the world we live in and how we live…Unhappy marriages, deceptions, violent crime and, above all, the human need to connect at some or any level. Verbeke has written a bold, busy, textured novel. Read it once and you may well read it twice.” ―Eileen Battersby, Irish Times

“A powerful novel that is as subtle and thoughtful as it is earth-shattering, with an ending that will break your heart” —The Gazette

Thirty Days is a novel about goodness and compassion. The book finds the perfect balance between sensitivity and humor, hopefulness and criticism, cheer and despair.” —Flanders Literature

“An immensely stylish book…a profoundly moving, insightful and witty piece of work, a book that has the capacity to make readers laugh and cry. It is, quite simply, fantastic.” —ANN MORGAN,  A Year of Reading the World

“While the novel Thirty Days by Annelies Verbeke deals with these very contemporary, divisive themes of immigration, displacement, racism, and the rise of hate groups, it is not an overtly political novel, but an artful examination of the rich, interior life of one Senegalese immigrant, living in Belgium.” ―The Literary Review

“Verbeke has constructed an entire life in 30 days (the chapters are numbered as such), and the result is nothing less than extraordinary.” ―The Gazette

“There is a fair amount of humor in this novel―the humor and absurdity of day to day life―and even though it’s a translation, it does come through in bursts.”―Paul LaRosa, New York Journal of Books

“Thirty Days is a slice of life so compelling and warm that I stayed up far too late to finish it.” ―Kate MacDonald

“Thirty Days is a novel about goodness and compassion. The book finds the perfect balance between sensitivity and humour, hopefulness and criticism, cheer and despair.” ―Flanders Literature

“Verbeke has a wonderful knack of bringing characters vividly to life in few expertly chosen evocative words, through gesture, knowing looks and clever metaphors.” ―The Big Issue

“Annelies Verbeke is a literary phenomenon” ―Edinburgh Book Festival

“Dutch readers voted this their favourite novel of 2015, and Liz Waters’s elegant translation conveys the warmth and gentle humour of Alphonse’s initial interactions with the local people, the chilly distrust that lurks under the surface and the complexity of his relationship with Cat.” ―The Herald Scotland