Dearest is the story of Puck. At the age of five she and her mother move from a sloppy Rotterdam neighborhood to a residential mansion in Zwijndrecht (a city close to Rotterdam). It is the home of Uncle Mister.

In Rotterdam, Puck had no father and no bike. Her mother was cutting other people’s hair. In the home of Uncle Mister she has her own room with cupboards that contain secret drawers, a whole Indian village made of Playmobil, and markers and pencils in all the colors of the rainbow.

In the hall of Uncle Mister’s house stand two big Chinese vases –Puck is not allowed to climb on them, but she can yell into them –and the garden is as big as the park in Rotterdam. Puck’s mother now has a cleaning lady, she can afford to buy blue mascara, drink a bottle of rosé every day, and buy as many Swarovski animals made of glass as she wants.

Puck and her mother are lucky. That’s why it is important that Puck behaves well. Because if Puck does not behave well, Uncle Mister will send them back to Rotterdam. In order to be a good girl, Puck tries not to feel cold in the bathroom when there are no towels available (Uncle Mister dries her with his bare hands) or be afraid when someone marches into her sleeping room unannounced (the door is never locked).

In moments when she is too cold or not feeling well, she can always disappear into her head. Puck is good at that. Just like she is good at shrugging her shoulders, smiling, and saying ‘fine’ when people ask her how she is feeling.

Sometimes the truth is too secret to share.

But secrets are lonely, because they are hidden. And they grow, every day a little bit more. In the end they are too big to be kept secret. They want to be found. They want to be discovered.

In Dearest Kim van Kooten has tried to make the unimaginable imaginable. The novel is based on the life story of Pauline Barendregt, but written, edited, colored (in), and composed by Kim van Kooten, who is known for her unique  –deceivingly light– style; Kim can find humor in the darkest moments, mixes high and low emotions, makes the novel so compelling and gripping. And unforgettable.

Dearest is a monument to all the Pucks in the world, a book for children with a secret.

dearest cover.jpg


  • Mesmerizing first novel of one of the most gifted authors in the Netherlands
  • Based on the unimaginable events that took place in Pauline Barendregt’s youth
  • Kim van Kooten and Pauline Barendregt worked closely together to make the unimaginable, imaginable – with a powerful sense of humor and a clear voice
  • A book about secrets that need to be revealed, written for all children who carry those secrets with them
  • French rights were sold in a pre-empt to Calmann Levy
  • Read a sample here and an interview here
  • Article "Behind the Dutch Bestseller Dearest"on the Publishers Weekly website here
  • Dearest was longlisted for the Libris Literatuur Prijs 2016 (longlist), and shortlisted for the Opzij Literature Prize and Hebban Award (best novel and best first novel)
  • Rave reviews and massive press coverage
  • NRC Handelsblad selected Dearest as one of the 24 best Dutch fiction novels of the year. The novel ended on the second place in the competition
  • Great quote from Michel Faber
  • Ziv Lewis, acquiring editor at Kinneret-Zmora (in Israel) said this about Dearest: 'It’s a unique work. Shocking, moving and important.'



France (Calmann Levy)

Italy (De Agostini)

Israel (Kinneret-Zmora)

Kim van Kooten

Kim van Kooten

Pauline Barendregt

Pauline Barendregt


Kim van Kooten (1974) is an actress and a writer. She has starred in dozens of films and TV series, among them Phileine zegt sorry (awarded Best Actress of the year), Hollands Hoop and Onder het hart. She wrote the screenplays for Blind Date (awarded Best Film of the year), Met Grote Blijdschap (awarded Best Scenario of the year) and the box office hits Alles is liefde and Alles is familie.

Pauline Barendregt (1969) is design director and owner of Studio Button, a Strategic Design Company, based in Amsterdam. She is a former head of design at Mac & Maggie and for ten years was the head of design at G-Star RAW. Pauline is also a lecturer in branded design at the ArteZ Fashion Institute, Arnhem.


"One of the most assured and audacious debuts I've ever read. Simultaneously delightful and unbearable, sprightly and deeply horrifying, this story of abuse and resilience is borne aloft by its endearing heroine.” Michel Faber 

Dearest has horror and humor, an almost forbidden combination. The dialogues are sleek and very effective and there are numerous scenes that make your mouth fall open’ NRC Handelsblad ****

‘A drama breaks through the familiar, in a novel like a gratifying scratch through tranquility’ Arjan Peters, de Volkskrant

‘Van Kooten keeps you sickeningly on the edge of your seat; you’ll read Dearest in one sitting’ Trouw

‘Humorous, moving and flawlessly written’ De Telegraaf *****

‘Heartbreaking. A pitch-black story told with humor’ Het Parool

‘This debut novel is a cruel fairy tale, a dramatic story about becoming an adult and a staggering portrait in cinematic pictures about a lonely, wayward girl that survives her youth’ Opzij

‘This novel is a matchless rollercoaster’ JAN

‘Heavy, funny, gruesome, and most of all, enraging’ Linda

‘With Dearest Van Kooten not only proves that she can write, but mostly that she possesses a humor and compassion that goes right into the heart’ Vogue


Rights are handled by Lebowski in collaboration with Vicki Satlow Literary Agency, Via Cenisio 16, Milano, Italy
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