With his wheelchair-bound spastic narrator, Fransje Hermans, who can only speak in unintelligible grunts, Tommy Wieringa has succeeded in writing a dazzling novel whose every page sparkles with imagination, it is a splendid literary achievement. The story is driven by Joe Speedboat, friend and classmate of the narrator and, of course, his enterprising counterpart.
A newcomer to the small community of Lomark, Joe Speedboat – a selfchosen name – continually startles the villagers out of their lethargy with his spectacular actions. Whether he’s placing bombs or building an aeroplane in order to spy on Mrs. Eilander, supposedly sunning herself in the nude in her back garden, Joe is a centrifugal force who manages to turn the immobile Fransje into a sportsman by having him participate in arm-wrestling contests.
‘He wasn’t so much a special guy as a force that was freed. You tingled expectantly in his presence – there was an energy that took form in his hands, in no particular order he conjured up bombs, race-mopeds, and aeroplanes, juggling them like a light-hearted magician. I had never met anyone for whom ideas led so naturally to action, on whom fear and convention had so little influence.’ Joe Speedboat is also brilliant in showing the development of a close group of young people as they lose their innocence.
A central role is reserved for Mrs. Eilander’s daughter, the gorgeous PJ, who with her cascade of blond curls causes all the boys to lose their heads. They all fall in love with her, without realising who exactly they are dealing with. Fransje is the only one who does. A chaotic wedding party ensues which gets completely out of hand. It’s Joe’s doing. As the narrator Fransje says, all ‘is show with him until the last minute.’
Joe Speedboat has everything that turns a novel into a unique experience: intriguing characters who come alive in a dazzling, tragic-comic story that is wonderfully told – Wieringa surprises the reader with beautiful images, striking descriptions, and magnificent details on every page. His imagination is phenomenal.