‘The day I met Ine was the day I began to rise in the air.’ So opens Suiperduif (Superdove), Esther Gerritsen’s fourth novel, about eleven-year-old Bonnie, who turns into a super hero on that special day. Yet this is not an adventure story; rather, it is a skilled account of Bonnie’s life seen from inside her mind, from inside the mind of an adolescent and one who’s heading for a mental breakdown.
Gerritsen avoids plunging into psychological depths while subtly and clearly showing why Bonnie behaves as she does. She wants to be ‘seen’ by her intellectual, environmentally aware, right-thinking parents, who hide behind their newspapers in the morning and insist on addressing her like an adult (there’s real humour in these).
The first time she begins to float, or fly, is when she receives attention from Ine, a beautiful new girl to the class. The rest of her classmates tend to ignore her. As a super hero, adolescent preoccupation with suffering in the world can be dealt with: dogs are saved from crossing roads, toddlers from falling from windows and elderly drivers from failing to stop.
Bonnie’s world is not entirely dark. She is, after all, a young girl who does crazy things like galloping wildly down the beach. But the resolution to the novel is moving and affecting when the reader - and those around Bonnie - finally waken to the fact that all is far from well with her, when they hear her heartrending cry, ‘Papa, Mama, I want to die!’
Gerritsen’s training as a playwright has stood her in good stead with her characterisation and dialogue. Superduif is a surprising, moving and powerful book.