Nothing Heard, Nothing Seen
Hazelhoff’s work is characterized by a sober, slightly melancholy style, which highlights the meaning of friendship and shows people in all their vulnerability. The name of the protagonist in this book is Linde, but she calls herself River. Not the ‘lovely calm river’ her father drew in one of his books, but a wild, grey river which overflows its banks with brute force. The ten-year-old River is an only child and is smothered by the all-embracing love of her parents. Her father even uses her as the main character in all his picture books, with the result that River never tells him anything any more, because he’ll just use it in a story.
The power struggle between River and her parents becomes clear when Walt enters the picture. River is in love with Walt, and used as she is to having her way, she goes all out to get him. She even drops her girlfriend for him, but surly Walt won’t have anything to do with her. He avoids her with the constant excuse that he has to take care of his mother. When he finally starts coming to River’s house, River’s father takes him under his wing. Walt becomes fascinated with River’s father. He helps him finish his picture book, in which Linde is the main character. River watches from the sidelines.
Niks gehoord, niks gezien is a true Hazelhoff. As in her most recent books, a dissatisfied child plays the lead: a child who rebels against everyone and everything around her but actually has no idea which way to turn. In the background another, more highly charged story takes place. Through details and remarks made between the lines, the reader becomes aware that something is not quite right with Walt. He always has a fresh excuse for his scrapes and bruises, his mother never makes an appearance, and in the end he is practically living at River’s house.
River sees nothing, though, because she is wallowing in self-willed isolation. It is not until she lays eyes on the picture book and wants to destroy it in a fit of jealousy that she understands what is wrong with Walt: he is a victim of child abuse.
In a dry, nearly staccato style and by precise rendering of details, Hazelhoff manages to treat a difficult subject in a light-hearted way, without moralizing or detracting from the issue at hand. This is a beautifully written story about a true-to-life, complicated girl, who has difficulty crossing the threshold into the outside world.