A lonely adolescent has a heroic, spectacular plan
Anne-Gine Goemans describes the isolated world of fourteen-year-old Gieles, who lives in an almost deserted spot right next to a new landing strip: the so-called polder runway, which his father is supposed to keep free of geese and other birds. Gieles has two geese of his own and he wants to teach them how to fly, following the example of ornithologist Christian Moullec, his great hero. His other great hero is Captain Scully, the pilot who made a successful emergency landing on the Hudson after a flock of geese disabled the engine of his plane.
Gieles prepares a heroic, spectacular plan involving his geese, with which he intends to win back his mother when her flight from Africa finally touches down. She seems to care more about the people in Africa than she does about him and his father. Of course, the future flight of the geese represents the boy’s desire for freedom in this coming-of-age novel. This is contrasted with the limitations and constraints of development and modernisation, as experienced by Gieles’s mother in Africa.
This desire for freedom also affects Gieles’s mentor, Super Waling, an obese historian and journalist, who is shackled to his mobility scooter and has become stuck in his own past, which is closely connected to the airport. Waling may once have been a hero who helped to rescue passengers from a plane crash, but the full facts suggest an entirely different picture. However, as an anti-hero, he still proves to be an example for Gieles, the model of someone who takes a positive approach to his life.
Like her first novel Ziekzoekers, Glijvlucht features a historic component. While in her debut Goemans wrote about ‘tulip fever’ – the bulb speculation that saw so many wealthy Dutch people gambling away their fortune in the seventeenth century – here she describes the creation of the polders. This is presented in wonderful stories that Super Waling writes about his ancestors who helped to reclaim this land under appalling conditions – stories that he sends to Gieles as background information for a school project.
All of these different angles and stories make Glijvlucht a lively, exciting and funny novel, which is told with great energy and momentum. A completely convincing picture of the bizarre fantasy world of a lonely adolescent.