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I like to read classics, historical fiction and world lit. Oh and I love short stories.


Joe Speedboot (Tommy Wieringa)

Joe Speedboot - Tommy Wieringa Joe Speedboat - Tommy Wieringa

Frankie wakes up and finds himself wheelchair bound after a serious accident. Joe Speedboat tells the story of his coming of age; finding his place in the confined world of a Dutch village now that he is disabled, and his attempts to belong somewhere. He befriends Joe Speedboat, the new kid in town with wild and imaginative ideas. Frankie admires Joe to no end and wants to be part of his world and his crazy projects;

they build a plane, they go to arm-wrestling tournaments where Frankie makes a fortune.

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At the same time, a girl, PJ, wanders into and out of Frankie's life.

It was a touching, sometimes witty, account of Frankie's coming of age. It was interesting to read from the perspective of a disabled boy, and I can understand his teenage fascination with the energetic Joe. Yet I felt that Frankie was extremely negative about all the women he describes.

There's literally no woman portrayed in a positive way; he has no appreciation for his mother, his crush is the village slut, Joe's mother cannot live without her boyfriend and falls apart when he disappears, etc. etc.

(show spoiler)

That really deterred me from enjoying other aspects of the novel. While I usually don't mind reading about unsympatethic characters, I found that negativity about women crossed a personal boundary, as some of the negative portrayal wasn't only due to the narrator's perspective, but also due to the choices the author made while writing the novel. It makes me wonder whether that negativity is only the narrator's view of women, or also that of the author.

Portrayal of "Dutch village life"
I read Joe Speedboat when I came back to the Netherlands after a long stay abroad. This book was basically my re-integration process. The setting felt extremely Dutch: the landscape, a small village, the river and the polders. But the people and the portrayal of living in a small village? Maybe it is the way people live in a small Dutch village, but there was something about it that felt fake. Like an American watching an American tv-show that portrays "typical" family life; you recognise that it is typical American, yet you know noone whose life is like that.